Efforts by the Office of Government Ethics To Implement Certain Sections of the Ethics in Government Act

FPCD-80-34: Published: Dec 7, 1979. Publicly Released: Jan 7, 1980.

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The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 established the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) within the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The Act charged OGE with various responsibilities concerning conflicts of interest in the executive branch of the Government. Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the current staff situation and organization of OGE, its relationship with OPM, and whether the statutory deadlines and other requirements of the Ethics in Government Act had been met.

Since its inception, OGE has operated with a temporary staff. The volume of work and the short time in which it had to be completed did not provide sufficient time to design an organization and recruit a permanent staff. An early proposal for creating a professional staff for OGE was amended slightly after discussion with OPM. The first 10 permanent employees had been hired at the time of the study; however, since a permanent Director had not been appointed, hiring of a Deputy Director and his secretary, two division chiefs, and two GS-15 attorneys had been delayed. OGE officials stated that their relationship with OPM had been generally satisfactory. At the policy level, they functioned relatively independently, while in nonpolicy matters, they relied extensively on OPM for support. The Director of OGE reports to and is subordinate to the Director of OPM. At the time of the study, the extent to which the Director of OPM would exercise his authority over OGE was unknown. Statements by OPM and OGE officials indicated that the question of whether OPM would maintain only an advisory role or review authority with respect to OGE had not been resolved. OGE experienced mixed success in meeting the statutory deadlines and fulfilling other requirements of the Act. Shortcomings were blamed on the failure of many agencies to meet filing deadlines and weaknesses in OGE guidelines and procedures.

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