Government wants more ethics rules for Afghanistan reconstruction employees

Brian Ferguson/AP

Federal employees who work for the office overseeing reconstruction in Afghanistan will be subject to additional government ethics rules, according to a recent notice in the Federal Register.

The “unique status and mission” of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction makes it necessary for its employees to obtain prior approval for certain types of outside work and activities, according to an interim rule published in the April 6 Federal Register. The office, known as SIGAR, is an independent entity responsible for overseeing reconstruction money and preventing and detecting waste, fraud and abuse of U.S. funds.

According to the draft rule, employees must obtain written approval prior to participation in certain outside activities, including:

  • Providing professional services involving the application of the same specialized skills or same education used in the employee’s official duties.
  • Teaching, speaking, or writing related to the employee's official duties.
  • Serving as an officer, director, trustee, general partner, employee, agent, attorney, consultant, contractor, or active participant for a “prohibited source.” The notice defines a prohibited source as a person or organization subject to SIGAR’s oversight and as such, would be significantly affected by the employee’s work. Exceptions would include an employee’s participation in volunteer activities for various organizations such as nonprofit charitable groups, religious groups, or civic organizations.
  • Providing services, other than clerical services or service as a fact witness, for someone in connection with a particular matter in which the United States is a party, has a direct and substantial interest, or involves the preparation of materials for submission to, or representation before, a federal court or executive branch agency.

The draft rule, crafted by SIGAR and the Office of Government Ethics, includes paid and unpaid outside work and activities. It would apply to SIGAR employees, except those designated as a “special government employee” -- a group that includes paid and unpaid officers or employees working  on a temporary basis.

“This approval requirement will help to ensure that potential ethical problems are resolved before employees begin outside employment or activities that could involve a violation of applicable laws and regulations,” the notice stated.

Interested parties must submit comments on the interim rule by June 5.

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