What is the Office of Government Ethics?

by | Mar 6, 2017

Last Updated May 14, 2024

Lately, it seems the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has played some part in most stories out of Washington, DC. So, who are they? What role do they play?

What is the Office of Government Ethics?

The OGE is an independent government agency established by the Ethics in Government Act in 1978. They provide overall leadership and oversight of the executive branch. They are designed to prevent and resolve conflicts of interest. The first principle in the 14 Principles of Public Service is “public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain.” As public servants, they are required to make impartial decisions for the good of the public.

The OGE works with more than 130 agencies to implement an ethics program. Their main duties include:

  • Maintain enforceable standards of ethical conduct for 2.7 million civilian employees in over 130 executive-branch agencies and the White House.
  • Oversee a financial disclosure system that reaches more than 27,000 public and 370,000 confidential financial disclosure report filers.
  • Ensure executive branch ethics programs follow applicable ethics laws and regulations.
  • Provide training and education to more than 5,500 ethics officials.
  • Conduct outreach to the public, private sector, and civil society.
  • Provide technical assistance to state, local, and foreign governments, and international organizations.

Mission and Responsibilities

Their mission is to provide overall leadership and oversight to the executive branch ethics program and to prevent and resolve conflicts.

Their vision is to achieve a high level of public confidence in the integrity of executive branch programs and operations.

To fulfill this mission the OGE:

  • Advances a strong, uniform executive branch ethics program by interpreting and advising on ethics, laws, policies, and program management; holding executive branch agencies accountable for carrying out an effective ethics program; contributing to the professional development of ethics officials, and modernizing and implementing ethics rules and regulations.
  • Contribute to the continuity of sr. leadership in the executive branch by aiding the President and Senate in Senate confirmations for Presidential nominees; promoting leadership support of ethics programs, and supporting succession planning in ethics community.
  • Promotes transparency of executive branch ethics programs by raising the visibility of the ethics programs and OGE by ensuring the ethics information is publicly available.

Their mission is one of prevention. They don’t adjudicate complaints, investigate matters within the jurisdiction of the Inspector General’s and other authorities, or prosecute ethics violations.

Executive Branch Ethics Program Rules and Responsibilities

Each agency head appoints individuals to serve as the agency’s Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) and Alternative Designated Agency Ethics Official (ADAEO). Nearly 4,500 full and part-time government officials help executive branch employees identify and resolve potential conflicts of interest. Their duties include collecting and receiving employees’ financial disclosure reports, providing employees with ethics training counseling employees on ethics and standards of conduct issues and maintains compliant agency ethics programs.

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