April 5, 2023
From: Emory Rounds, Director
Recent surveys show that the public’s trust in its government is lower now than it has been at nearly any point in our nation’s recent history. This is deeply troubling. Our fellow Americans’ trust is vital to the success of the public services we provide to them as public servants. Without their trust, it is harder for our government to provide for the health, welfare, safety, and security of our country.
To rebuild the trust of our fellow Americans, we must ensure that ethics requirements are not simply treated as administrative, check-the-box exercises, but as vital to building and protecting public trust. Employees, ethics officials, and agency leaders must go beyond mere legal sufficiency and must actively do all they can to foster, enhance, and grow a climate of trust and honorable service.
Rebuilding that trust will also require greater transparency. All federal employees must remain aware that we conduct our work in the public eye and must expect public scrutiny. For executive branch leaders, appointed and career, this transparency extends to the contents of our private financial lives. To this end, I call on all filers during this public financial disclosure season to treat this ongoing obligation seriously and to understand that transparency is part of honorable service.
Because it is a vital tool for preventing conflicts of interest, public financial disclosure filers in the executive branch can expect, as a matter of near certainty, that the press and civil society will request, receive, and review our financial disclosure reports. It is therefore critical that filers timely, accurately, and completely report, and that agency ethics officials thoroughly and expeditiously conduct their reviews. Done right, public financial disclosure can be a source of confidence in government. Done poorly, the opposite effect is likely.
The executive branch ethics program forms the foundation of trust-building efforts in government, and all of us within the government — employees, leaders, and the ethics officials who advise them— must contribute to that trust every day. Each executive branch employee is responsible for honorable conduct and for keeping their promise to carry out our government duties in service of the public good. For leaders, this includes public financial disclosure now and throughout government service.
We find ourselves in challenging times, but I am confident that we can and will contribute to rebuilding a more trusted public service through ethical conduct and transparency.