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Government Ethics and Accountability

July 21, 2020

When government officials abuse public office for their own enrichment, they may face a variety of consequences, from administrative sanctions to prison time. 

While OGE works to prevent conflicts of interest, Inspectors General and the Department of Justice investigate and prosecute violations of the ethics laws. Every year, OGE publishes summaries of successful prosecutions of violations of the ethics laws. In 2019, there were 13 successful prosecutions of violations of ethics laws. 

There are also administrative penalties for less severe violations of ethics rules and regulations. These actions range from corrective training to termination. OGE requires agencies to report annually about the administrative actions they have taken to correct ethics violations. In 2019, 1,036 such actions were taken executive branch-wide.    

The public also plays a role in ensuring government officials are not placing their own interests before the public good. Government leaders are required to annually report their financial holdings.  Agencies are required to make these reports available so that the public can see for themselves that these officials are not being influenced by personal financial interests when they are doing their government duties. You can see the reports of the most senior officials here. You can learn where to request the reports of other officials here

Through mandatory training, financial disclosure, and expert advice, OGE and agency ethics officials work hard to help government officials serve with honor and integrity. Although the vast majority of federal employees serve the public with integrity, when advice goes unheeded and training goes ignored, there are a variety of penalties for willful violations of the ethics rules.