Office of Government Ethics' Policy Development Role

GGD-89-3: Published: Oct 5, 1988. Publicly Released: Oct 5, 1988.

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Bernard L. Ungar
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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Office of Government Ethics' (OGE) operations to determine whether OGE was carrying out its role and responsibilities under the Ethics in Government Act.

GAO found that OGE: (1) made significant progress in implementing the act, especially in providing training and counseling services, assessing agency ethics programs, and reviewing financial disclosure reporting; (2) had not issued regulations prescribing a confidential financial reporting system for executive branch employees; (3) did not evaluate conflict-of-interest statutes to provide for a range of civil and criminal sanctions for statute violations; and (4) issued many informal opinions interpreting the conflict-of-interest laws, but had not issued final regulations or made its informal opinions more useful for agency ethics officials.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On April 7, 1992, OGE issued final regulations establishing a uniform system of confidential financial disclosure for the executive branch (5 CFR 2634, subpart I). OGE has formalized its opinions interpreting ethics laws. The recommendation concerning conflict-of-interest laws and amendments is no longer applicable because a 1989 act made significant changes that addressed the GAO recommendations.

    Recommendation: To provide agency ethics officials with needed policy guidance, OGE should: (1) issue final regulations establishing a confidential financial disclosure system; (2) provide informal opinions to agency ethics officials in a form to facilitate their use, including guidance on how informal opinions may be sought from OGE and the extent to which they can be relied upon by the individual involved and others; and (3) work with the Department of Justice to complete a comprehensive evaluation of the conflict-of-interest laws and, as appropriate, recommend amendments.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management: Office of Government Ethics


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