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United States Office of Government Ethics, Preventing Conflicts of Interest in the Executive Branch

Mission and Responsibilities

Mission – Provide overall leadership and oversight of the executive branch ethics program designed to prevent and resolve conflicts of interest.

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) oversees the executive branch ethics program and works with a community of ethics practitioners made up of nearly 5,000 ethics officials in more than 130 agencies to implement that program. When government decisions are made free from conflicts of interest, the public can have greater confidence in the integrity of executive branch programs and operations. OGE’s mission is part of a system of institutional integrity in the executive branch.
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To fulfill its mission, OGE:
  • Advances a strong, uniform executive branch ethics program by providing expert guidance and support to stakeholders; strengthening the expertise of officials who are integral to the executive branch ethics program; and continuously refining ethics policy and issuing interpretive guidance.
  • Holds the executive accountable for carrying out an effective ethics program by monitoring agency compliance with executive branch ethics program requirements; and monitoring senior leaders’ compliance with individual ethics commitments.
  • Contributes to the continuity of senior leadership in the executive branch by preparing for the Presidential transition; and providing assistance to the President and the Senate in the Presidential appointment process.
  • Engages the public in overseeing government integrity by informing the public about OGE and the executive branch ethics program; and making ethics information publicly available.
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The Executive Branch Ethics Program: Roles and Responsibilities

The executive branch ethics program is a shared responsibility. As the supervising ethics office, OGE sets policy for the entire executive branch ethics program. The head of each agency is statutorily
executive branch ethics pyramidresponsible for leading the program in their agency. This includes creating an ethical culture by demonstrating a personal commitment to ethics and providing the necessary resources to implement a strong and effective agency ethics program.

The agency head is also responsible for selecting a Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO), the employee with primary responsibility for directing the daily activities of an agency's ethics program and coordinating with OGE. Often, additional professional ethics staff are necessary to effectively carry out important ethics program responsibilities. Each agency’s employees, supervisors, human resources officials, and Inspectors General also play a significant role in maintaining the integrity of government programs and operations.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each employee to understand and abide by the ethics laws and rules. Agency ethics officials are available to help each employee fulfill these responsibilities and to ensure that employees make decisions based on the public’s interests rather than their own financial interests.

The public’s role is to assist in holding government officials accountable for carrying out their duties free from conflicts of interest. In order to foster transparency, the ethics rules allow members of the public to access various government records, such as public financial disclosure reports, ethics agreements, and agency ethics program reviews. With this information, the public can review the processes in place to detect and resolve conflicts of interest.

Where to Report Misconduct
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) does not handle complaints of misconduct, nor does OGE have investigative or prosecutorial authority.  OGE's mission is one of prevention.  However, there are several agencies and entities across federal, state, and local governments that are responsible for investigating and prosecuting misconduct.