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Office of Government Ethics Seeks Feedback on Upcoming Strategic Plan

New objectives are slated to focus on equity and broader outreach. 

The Office of Government Ethics is seeking public feedback by July 22 on its strategic plan for the next five years. 

OGE is a 71-person independent agency headed by a director who is appointed by the president for a five-year term that oversees and enforces ethics law at more than 140 executive branch agencies. A notice posted in the Federal Register on Tuesday outlines the process and deadline for submitting feedback on the plan that will span fiscal years 2022 to 2026. 

“The executive branch ethics program strives to protect the trust between the American people and their government,” said Shelley Finlayson, OGE program counsel, in a recent press release. “Citizens, nonprofit organizations, and government employees can all contribute to advancing trust in government. Together, we can build a government that better serves the needs of our nation with the confidence of its citizens.”

The draft version of the plan outlines the following goals: advancing strong and consistent ethics in the executive branch; mitigating ethics vulnerabilities in the executive branch; helping top officials resolve conflicts of interest and show ethical leadership; and using transparency to advance oversight of the executive branch. 

“These goals reflect the broad, long-term outcomes OGE aspires to achieve in order to fulfill its mission of preventing conflicts of interest and its vision of achieving a high level of public confidence in the integrity of executive branch programs and operations,” said the draft plan. 

Within each goal there are strategic objectives (12 in total). There is also one cross-cutting objective—which is to “advance equity in OGE’s programs and operations” such as in its hiring, procurement and external communications processes—as well as three stewardship objectives that are focused on the agency’s operations and personnel management. 

“OGE endeavors to be a model agency with regard to its workforce, technology, and compliance,” said the draft plan. “The agency invests in the development, diversity, and retention of its most valuable asset: its staff.” 

The goals are largely similar to the current version of the plan, but it has fewer strategic objectives (nine) and three management objectives. 

The focus on equity is new as well as specific objectives related to reaching a “broader array of stakeholders;” equipping leaders in the executive branch to head “ethical organizations;” and using “oversight authorities to address known or potential ethics risks as they come to its attention,” Finlayson said in a statement to Government Executive. 

“OGE recognizes a need to reach beyond the Beltway to ensure that the American people understand and can access the ethics information that OGE makes available, such as public financial disclosure reports filed by senior government leaders,” she added. “To succeed, OGE will need to increase awareness in historically underserved communities and to reduce any barriers to accessing ethics information.” 

In addition to submitting feedback by July 22, there will be a virtual town hall on July 13 open to the public. 

Emory Rounds III is the current OGE director and is coming up on the three-year mark of his appointment––July 13, 2018––so he has about two years left.

In the Biden administration budget proposal for fiscal 2022 released in May, OGE is seeking about $20.4 million, which is about $1.78 million more than the fiscal 2021 enacted level. 

“Funding at the requested level will allow OGE to operate with sufficient staff resources, undertake its necessary IT infrastructure improvements to ensure it remains secure and reliable, and continue to improve and enhance Integrity,” which is its filing system for financial disclosures, said the congressional budget justification. “Cutting or underfunding OGE’s budget would increase risk to the executive branch ethics program operations.”

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