U.S. Office of Government Ethics

The OGE was initially created in the federal Office of Personnel Management by the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, then given separate agency status a decade later. The 1988 reauthorization act defines the OGE’s mission as “overall direction of executive branch policies relating to preventing conflicts of interest on the part of officers and employees of any executive agency.” A small agency with a budget to match, the OGE is vulnerable as a discretionary domestic component of the federal budget.

Since 1989, the executive order in force has required the OGE to promulgate regulations establishing a “single, comprehensive and clear set of executive branch standards of conduct” (Executive Order 12674 specifies that they be “objective, reasonable, and enforceable”). The seriousness of this charge is shown in the OGE’s swift response; it published interim regulations in the Federal Register to standardize rules and correct deficiencies in agency ethics programs. The OGE’s tasks extend beyond regulatory authority to include financial disclosure, education and training, guidance and interpretation (U.S. Office of Government Ethics, 1990b), enforcement, and evaluation of conflict-of-interest laws. Its regulatory reach touches every executive employee in federal service (including the uniformed military) and every agency.

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