The District of Columbia Should Establish a Separate Office of Ethics

FPCD-79-65: Published: Aug 16, 1979. Publicly Released: Aug 16, 1979.

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The financial disclosure systems for District of Columbia Government employees are administered by two offices, the District Board of Elections and Ethics and the District Personnel Office. The financial disclosure systems of the District Government must ensure that personal financial interests of its employees do not conflict with their official duties.

The Board administers the financial disclosure system for high-level District officials; however, because the Board is understaffed and gives priority to District elections, it has not been able to determine whether all the required statements have been filed for past years. The Personnel Office administers financial disclosure systems for District agencies, but due to a shortage of staff it has not monitored the systems for many years. GAO found that: (1) statements were not filed, were filed late, or were inadequately completed; (2) not all employees in sensitive positions were required to file statements; and (3) statements were not adequately reviewed, and criteria did not exist for determining conflicts of interest. There also appeared to be instances where agency officials should have questioned information disclosed on the statements in the Department of Human Resources. Recent legislation may remedy some, but not all, of the deficiencies.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: To establish effective financial disclosure systems in the District of Columbia Government, the Mayor should establish an Ethics Office with strong administrative and enforcement authority. All duties held by the Board and the Personnel Office should be transferred to the Ethics Office. This Office should be adequately staffed and charged with the primary tasks of developing sound financial disclosure systems and making legislative recommendations for enacting the system's requirements into law. In developing the systems, procedures, and comprehensive financial disclosure legislation, the Office should: develop financial disclosure forms to obtain all information needed to detect potential conflicts of interest; require high-level officials to file public financial disclosure statements with the Office and require other officials to file confidential financial disclosure statements with their employing agency; establish specific procedures to ensure that all statements are properly and promptly filed and completed; establish specific criteria for reviewing financial disclosure statements and detecting potential conflicts of interest; establish a formal advisory service to render opinions on matters of financial disclosure and ethical conduct; provide continuous information on ethical matters for officials; audit periodically agencies' financial disclosure systems; and report annually on the effectiveness of the financial disclosure system and ethics regulations.

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