Federal Agency Standards of Employee Conduct Need Improvement

FPCD-80-8: Published: Oct 18, 1979. Publicly Released: Oct 18, 1979.

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Basic standards of conduct for government officials were prescribed in a recent Executive Order. Standards of employee conduct developed by federal agencies often differ in the ways they are interpreted and applied. Differences in agency application of standards result from statutes applicable to individual agencies and different agency responsibilities.

The basic philosophy underlying the application of standards of employee conduct places the primary burden of responsibility on the employee to know and to abide by standards, while agencies assume a passive role and usually react only to employee initiatives. Agencies generally have not taken sufficient action to evaluate the effectiveness of their standards. Federal agencies were not making use of available information sources to periodically review and evaluate the effectiveness of their standards as guidance for their employees. Negotiating for employment generally is not defined. Restrictions on accepting honoraria were included in the standards of only two of the six agencies reviewed, and only one agency prohibited outside employment with a company having a business relationship with the agency. Former guidance to agencies on developing standards was not adequate to minimize variations in the behavior expected of employees from different agencies. Agency management must better communicate the importance of these standards to employees and establish ways to recognize when problems exist in their implementation.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Office of Personnel Management should revise the implementing regulations for Executive Order 11222 to: (1) strengthen the guidance in those regulations on developing standards by specifically addressing those issues subject to varying interpretations from agency to agency; (2) require Federal agencies to review and evaluate the effectiveness of their standards of conduct in relation to their responsibilities; and (3) foster a basic change in the passive philosophy underlying implementation of the standards. To change this passive philosophy, Federal agencies should be required to make employees fully aware of their responsibilities and to assure consistent and correct advice and guidance when questions arise. Some specific actions include: initiating special procedures for emphasizing the importance to standards of conduct; providing interpretative guidance on sections of the standards; developing an informative summary of the standards to alert employees to potential conflict and areas in which they should seek advice; requiring documentation of advice and guidance except for simple repetitious cases; and providing specific training and guidance to agency officals authorized to respond to employee questions.

    Agency Affected:


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