February 12, 2014

Pentagon Going Full-Speed Ahead to Improve Ethics

The two top Defense officials have made ethics reform a “No. 1 priority” across military services, lines and commands.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Friday that he would soon appoint a new Pentagon senior ethics officer to report directly to him because “an uncompromising culture of accountability must exist at every level of command.”

On Sunday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey promised a new campaign to restore ethics after some recent lapses—examples of which include recent news reports that Air Force intercontinental ballistic missile launch officers were arrested for narcotics possession in Montana and that Navy trainers were implicated for cheating on tests at the Navy Nuclear Propulsion School in Charleston, S.C.

“Competence and character are not mutually exclusive,” Hagel told reporters. “They are woven together – they must be.” Asked whether the apparent rise in ethical lapses was related to the past decade’s wartime pressures, Hagel said, “Was it a constant focus of 12 years on two long land wars, taking our emphasis off some of these other areas? I don't know. We intend to find out.”

Posted by IEC Team Leader in News | Permalink

February 01, 2014

Happy Anniversary IEC Journal!!

The first IEC Journal post was published on this date, February 1, in 2004.  It's been a great 10 years of ethics news, announcements and collaboration!   Happy Anniversary IEC Journal- here's to many more years of ethics greatness!

-A special thanks to IEC Journal creator, Jerry Lawson, for reminding us of this special date! 

 

Posted by IEC Team Leader in News | Permalink

December 18, 2013

Nonprofit Pearson pays $7.7 million in Common Core settlement

Pearson Charitable Foundation, the nonprofit arm of educational publishing giant Pearson Inc., has agreed to pay a $7.7 million settlement to New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman after he determined that the foundation had created Common Core products to generate “tens of millions of dollars” for its corporate sister.

“The law on this is clear: non-profit foundations cannot misuse charitable assets to benefit their affiliated for-profit corporations,” Schneiderman said in a statement Thursday. T

he investigation by the attorney general examined Pearson’s efforts since 2010 to develop a line of classroom materials and tests built around the Common Core, new K-12 academic standards in reading and math that have been fully adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Pearson, the largest educational publisher in the world, sells instructional content, tests, systems and technology for profit to states, school districts and individual schools in the United States and across the globe. The adoption of the Common Core has created a lucrative opportunity for educational publishers, as states and schools rush to buy products “aligned” to the new standards.

According to the settlement, Pearson used its nonprofit foundation to develop Common Core products in order to win an endorsement from a “prominent foundation.”

Posted by IEC Team Leader in News | Permalink

December 16, 2013

Gallup Poll: Lobbyists rank last on ethics

Politico reports:  Congress can take heart that Americans still view one profession as having lower honesty and ethical standards than theirs, according to a new poll: lobbyists. Just 6 percent of Americans say lobbyists have high or very high honesty and ethical standards, making it last on a list of 22 professions surveyed about in a Gallup poll released Monday.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

September 27, 2013

Analysis: Trust in Federal Workers Hits New Low

GovExec reports: American confidence in federal employees has hit a new low, according to a nationwide poll of 800 registered voters released today by The George Washington University.  More than one-third of survey respondents -- 35 percent -- voiced “little or no confidence” in federal workers, up sharply from 23 percent in 2011. Only 19 percent of voters said they have “a lot of confidence” in federal workers, while 41 percent indicated “some confidence” and 5 percent were unsure.

Eroding respect for federal service is not a trivial matter. Essential compliance with laws and regulations is built on trust in the fair, responsible implementation of those laws and regulations.  Since 2009, phone surveys about American attitudes toward federal workers have been conducted for GW during the third quarter of each year by the Tarrance Group.

Despite this lack of trust, Americans still believe the federal government is a desirable career path. About three-quarters of registered voters, or 73 percent, still say they would encourage a young person to consider a federal job. Fewer than one in five, or 19 percent, would discourage a career in civil service.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in News | Permalink

April 26, 2013

Former DA jailed after judge issues scathing opinion in rare Texas court of inquiry

ABA Journal reports:  An unusual court of inquiry held to probe the conduct of a former Texas district attorney has concluded with a blistering opinion by the presiding judge.

Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson was briefly booked into jail Friday before being released on $7,500 bail after District Judge Louis Sturns determined that there was probable cause to support charges that Anderson had violated state law and acted in contempt of court by lying to a trial judge decades ago to win a conviction in a murder case, the American-Statesman reports.

The convicted man, Michael Morton, served nearly 25 years before he was exonerated.

“This court cannot think of a more intentionally harmful act than a prosecutor’s conscious choice to hide mitigating evidence so as to create an uneven playing field for a defendant facing a murder charge and a life sentence,” Sturns said.

Sturns found that Anderson concealed two critical items of evidence that could have helped Morton avoid conviction at trial. First, a police interview transcript showed that Morton's young son had witnessed the murder and said his father wasn't home when it occurred. Second, a man had parked a green van near the Morton home and several times walked into a wooded area behind the house.

The Judge's ruling represents the first step toward a potential prosecution of Anderson, who is now a sitting state court judge. Sturns issued a separate show-cause order requiring Anderson to appear in court to defend a criminal contempt citation, for which he could be sentenced to a maximum $500 fine and six months in jail if he is convicted.  Anderson's lawyer, Eric Nichols, said his client will appeal on statute-of-limitations grounds. He also argues that the facts do not support Sturns' finding and says he believes the court of inquiry went beyond the scope of its authority.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Legal Ethics, News | Permalink

April 23, 2013

Charles Rangel sues to overturn censure

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is suing House Speaker John Boehner and six other lawmakers to overturn his censure on ethics charges, arguing that members of the House Ethics Committee withheld evidence that could’ve cleared his name.

Besides Boehner, the lawsuit in federal court in Washington also names Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), then the House Ethics Committee Chairman. At the end of the Ethics Committee’s investigation, the House voted overwhelmingly to censure Rangel.

Rangel’s lawsuit aims to overturn that censure, according to USA Today, with the lawsuit claiming the ethics investigation involved “numerous, flagrant, knowing and intentional violations” of Rangel’s right to due process, including the committee withholding a memo written by former staffers arguing the investigation was tainted by misconduct.  Had Rangel known about the memo, the lawsuit says, he would’ve immediately moved to dismiss the investigation.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

December 31, 2012

Office of Congressional Ethics Needs Reauthorization to Continue

CNN reports:

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE)  -- which gets its mandate and funding from Congress -- must be reauthorized by this Congress, which soon adjourns, or early on by the new Congress. What's more, at least four of the OCE's board members are approaching the end of their terms, and new members must be selected and appointed for the organization to continue with its work.

No investigations or reports can be done by the office until their board is in place.

The OCE was formed four years ago when then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and others declared they wanted to "drain the swamp" of scandals and corruption in Washington.  Among the biggest scandals that prompted action was that of Jack Abramoff, a former lobbyist, who admitted in 2006 to illegally showering gifts on officials in exchange for favors.

Ken Boehm, chairman of the conservative National Legal and Policy Center, commented that if the OCE is not reauthorized and new board members are not appointed, it would "(send) the message to the public that not only is the ethics system broken, but it doesn't even exist anymore."

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

August 24, 2012

Ethics-Related News for the Week

Several interesting ethics-related articles ran this week:

http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/23/politics/gsa-hawaii-teleworking/index.html

http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=eYsq2caq

http://govpro.com/news/Edelman-trust-20120823/#ixzz24NdSYwCx

 

Posted by IEC Team Leader in News | Permalink

May 03, 2012

IEC Contributor Pat Carney Honored

Pat Carney has not restricted his community service to extensive contributions to the Interagency Ethics Council. He has also been honored as the 2012 recipient of the Federal Communications Bar Association’s award for outstanding government service.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in News | Permalink

May 01, 2012

New U.S. v. POGO decision

US District Court for DC issued its decision on the case about whether a Dept of Interior employee who received a $383,600 monetary award by a group that the employee had assisted in bringing a successful false claims action, had violated 18 USC 209. The case was previously vacated by the Circuit Court (United States v. POGO, 616 F.3d 544 (DC Cir. 2010)).  The District Court ruled against the employee, in summary judgment, and ordered him to repay the entire amount of the award (United States of America v. Project on Government Oversight, DDC CA No. 03-0096 (JDB)--March 21, 2012).

See FedSmith discussion http://www.fedsmith.com/article/3357/former-fed-who-breached-his-fiduciary.html

See DC Dist Court decision Download 86909812-US-v-POGO[1]

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

April 22, 2012

Balanced Perspectives on GSA Conference Scandal

A Washington Post column by Joe Davidson provides a more balanced perspective on the GSA conference scandal problem and the need for reform than most in the news media. He includes a quote from a federal employee:

“Unfortunately for those of us in agencies where a. we don’t have money for conferences to begin with, and b. we aren’t even allowed funds to buy coffee when we have on site meetings, the result of the GSA excesses will be increased scrutiny of all travel and training requests. So all of us, honest thrifty agencies included, will have to jump through more hoops and spend more time justifying everything we do.

“Thanks for making life harder for the rest of us govvies, GSA!”

An article in The Hill notes other interesting facts about the GSA scandal:

[O]ne might argue that the issue isn’t the cost, but the cover-up. Except there was no cover-up.  The “scandal” was not exposed by reporters meeting sources in parking garages. No one even had to file a Freedom of Information Act request. The waste was exposed by the GSA’s own inspector general.  Before anyone could demand that those responsible be fired – they were fired. And before anyone could say the problem goes all the way to the top, the person at the top, GSA Director Martha Johnson, resigned.

Bottom Line: It's important that those familiar with the facts not allow the news media feeding frenzy to create misleading impressions about government employees in general. The overwhelming majority are hard workers with sound judgment, far from the few bad apples at GSA.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in News | Permalink

April 16, 2012

More fall out from GSA conference scandal

Here are some additional articles relaying more information on the GSA conference scandal:

Posted by Account Deleted in Inspectors General, Issues: Misuse of Govt. Resources, News | Permalink

April 13, 2012

Legislation Watch: HR. 4343

On March 29, 2012, Representative Wolf (R-Va.) introduced HR. 4343.  The Foreign Lobbying Reform Act seeks to add a new post-Govt employment restrictions to 18 U.S.C. § 207.  The new subsection, (m), would prohibit the President, the Vice President, any Member of Congress, most PAS (excluding uniformed members 0-7 and above), and the heads of certain Intelligence and Defense agencies, from aiding, advising, or representing a foreign entity before any employee of member of Congress, or any employee or officer of any agency or department of the executive branch for 10 years after leaving office.  

Read the Bill: Download HR 4343 (PGE)

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Post Employment, News | Permalink

April 04, 2012

President signs STOCK Act

OGE reports:

"On April 4, 2012, the President signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act) (S. 2038). The Act establishes new requirements for Executive Branch ethics programs, ethics officials, and the thousands of employees who currently file financial disclosure reports pursuant to the Ethics in Government Act. OGE fully supports the Act’s focus on improving transparency and promoting public confidence in government and is carefully analyzing the provisions of the new law. In consultation with DAEOs and other senior agency ethics officials, OGE will issue a series of Legal, Program, and Education Advisories to implement the Act’s provisions.

Questions from agency ethics officials should be directed to the OGE Team that supports your agency. Media and related inquiries should be directed to Vincent Salamone at (202) 482-9292."

See STOCK Act: Download STOCK Act

Posted by Account Deleted in Electronic Filing, Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Issues: Financial Disclosure, Issues: Post Employment, Issues: Seeking Employment, Miscellaneous, News, OGE | Permalink

April 03, 2012

GSA Head resigns over excessives conference spending

Multiple news outlets have reported on the resignation of Martha Johnson, her deputy, but not before firing two senior GSA officials over a 2010 GSA Western Regions Conference, held in Los Vegas.  Following an IG investigation, it was found that “many of the expenditures on this conference were excessive and wasteful, and that in many instances GSA followed neither federal procurement laws nor its own policy on conference spending.”  To read the GSA IG Report: Download GSA IG Report 2012.

Read more:

Posted by Account Deleted in Fiscal Law, Inspectors General, News | Permalink

April 02, 2012

DOD Bribe Taker's Emotional Appeal Sways No One

Judges hear a lot of excuses. Here's one that did not prevent the judge from imposing a 20 month sentence on an ex-DOD official:

“It was a one-time deal. I thought if I did that, I could walk away from Afghanistan,” Wade said in an emotional and occasionally rambling statement. “I had seen enough.”

Navy Times provides more:

Desi Deandre Wade is an Army veteran who was the Defense Department’s top firefighting official in Afghanistan when he was arrested at an August conference in Atlanta moments after taking a bag crammed with $95,000 in cash. He pleaded guilty to taking the bribe to influence a contract, saying Wednesday he wanted to return home to Georgia with enough money to leave behind a three-year stint in Afghanistan.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in News | Permalink

March 30, 2012

Four Navy officials plead guilty to wide-raging scheme of fraud and corruption

Justice reports:

As part of the conspiracy, defense contractors provided Navy officials with over one million dollars in personal benefits, including cash, checks, retail gift cards, flat screen television sets, luxury massage chairs, home furniture and appliances, bicycles costing thousands of dollars, model airplanes, and home remodeling services. In return, the Navy officials placed millions of dollars in fraudulent orders with the defense contractors.

See DOJ Press Release at: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cas/press/2012/cas12-0328-Vangundy.pdf; see also Washington Post article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/navy-officials-contractors-plead-guilty-to-fraud-involving-1-million-in-bribes-in-calif/2012/03/28/gIQAfcQwgS_story.html.

Posted by Account Deleted in News | Permalink

March 28, 2012

Study Finds Most State Ethics Laws Lack "Teeth"

A CNN.com report discusses a recent study done by the Global Integrity nonprofit group, Public Radio International and Center for Public Integrity of state ethics laws.  The study found that, across the board, state ethics, open records and disclosure laws lack "teeth" to better enforce the rules.  States were given grades based on an assessment of corruption risk indicators.  New Jersey ranked top with a B+ and Georgia came in last with low scores in transparency and accountability. 

Posted by IEC Team 3 in News | Permalink

March 27, 2012

OSC Hatch Act press release

Two employees of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently served suspensions for sending partisan political e-mails while on duty and in the federal workplace.  See full press release at http://www.osc.gov/documents/press/2012/pr12_08ha.pdf

Posted by Account Deleted in News, OSC | Permalink

March 26, 2012

Ethics Articles from Fraud Facts Newsletter

The Spring 2012 Edition of Fraud Facts, an Air Force publication, has a couple of articles about ethics:

Workplace Ethics in Transition provides study results showing that there are currently "historically low levels of current misconduct in the American workplace and record high levels of employee reporting.  The percentage of employees who witnessed misconduct at work fell to a new low of 45 percent. That compares to 49 percent in 2009 and is well down from the record high of 55 percent in 2007.  Those who reported the bad behavior they saw reached a record high of 65 percent, up from 63" Unfortunately, the article contends that "As the economy gets better – and companies and employees become more optimistic about their financial futures – it seems likely that misconduct will rise and reporting will drop, mirroring the growth in pressure and retaliation that have already taken place and conforming to historic patterns." The article also purports to link social networking in the workplace with more ethical problems.

Leading by Example: Implementing a Values-Based Ethics Program at DoD explains DoD efforts to focus on values, rather than rules, arguing: Regulations can’t address every situation an employee faces, so a set of guiding principles are needed to help address the circumstances when the rules aren’t clear. This is the fundamental argument for a values-based ethics program. Best-in-class values-based ethics programs have several distinct features. They are based on a set of core values that are not only communicated from the top down, but they are integrated into everyday decisions throughout the organization. Best-in-class programs also train all employees on ethical decision-making every year. They focus on building an ethical culture where employees are encouraged to raise concerns, and they are rewarded for upholding standards of integrity.

Issues of Fraud Facts, including the most current, are available through a link on the right side of an Air Force website:

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

Aspen Institute Commission to Reform Appointment Process - White Paper

GovExec reports on the Aspen Institute-Rockefeller Foundation Commission to Reform the Federal Appointments Process white paper.  In this paper, the Commission recommends the House pass the Presidential Appointment & Efficiency & Streamlining Act, which was passed by the Senate in June 2011.  The report also says: "The nominees ... must navigate an archaic, unnecessarily burdensome and time-consuming background information process during their vetting and consideration for confirmation."  Read full article at: http://www.govexec.com/management/2012/03/panel-suggests-tighter-timeline-presidential-appointments/41558/

See The Presidential Appointment & Efficiency & Streamlining Act (S. 679) at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112s679rs/pdf/BILLS-112s679rs.pdf.

Posted by Account Deleted in News | Permalink

March 23, 2012

DARPA Chief to Google

Wired Magazine's Danger Room has multiple articles about the departure of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) chief Regina Dugan for Google.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Issues: Post Employment, News | Permalink

March 22, 2012

STOCK Act passes Senate and heads to President

POLITICO reports (3/22/12 2:03pm):

After weeks of delays, the Senate on Thursday sent a bill banning congressional insider trading to President Barack Obama for his expected signature.

The Senate voted 96 to 3 to pass a watered-down STOCK Act, which would bar members of Congress, their staff and some federal workers from profiting from non-public information obtained through their jobs.

 

Posted by Account Deleted in Electronic Filing, Issues: Financial Disclosure, News, OGE | Permalink

March 21, 2012

Federal Times reports on possible STOCK Act vote

The Federal Times reports that the Senate may vote on the STOCK Act as early as Thursday morning.  See full article at http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120320/CONGRESS02/203200306/1001.

Posted by Account Deleted in Electronic Filing, Issues: Financial Disclosure, News | Permalink

March 20, 2012

Ethics in the News

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, News | Permalink

March 08, 2012

White House Opens Ethics.gov Website

The government's Data.gov website is an effort to give citizens easy access to a variety of information about their government. The White House today unveiled Ethics.gov, which is a similar site focusing on ethics issues, including the following: 

As POGO notes:

This information has been available to the public in other digital corridors of the federal government, but until today, had not yet been brought under the same roof. This is a big deal. Being able to search all these records simultaneously marks a real step forward towards ethics transparency. 

Posted by IEC Team Leader in News | Permalink

March 06, 2012

Ethics related news here, there, & everywhere... Oh my!

Posted by Account Deleted in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

February 29, 2012

OGE's side-by-side comparision of the STOCK Act

It is worthy to take a look at the Office of Government Ethics side-by-side comparison of the various versions of the STOCK Act, which could create a public, sort and searchable, database of financial disclosure information in an effort to stymie insider trading concerns.  See Download S2038 side-by-side[1]

Posted by Account Deleted in Electronic Filing, Issues: Financial Disclosure, News, OGE | Permalink

February 15, 2012

Lobbyists sue Federal Govt over ban on Advisory Committees

Lobbyists who were serving or sought to serve, but were banned from federal advisory committees by the Obama administration, are suing the government to reverse the ban on their service on grounds that it violates the First Amendment. All plaintiffs were up or served on the Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITAC), which are jointly managed by the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. 

Read the full The Hill article at http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/210439-lobbyists-sue-obama-after-being-booted-from-boards 

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Advisory Committees, Issues: Special Gov. Employees, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

Lobbyists sue Federal Govt over ban on Advisory Committees

Lobbyists who were serving or sought to serve, but were banned from federal advisory committees by the Obama administration, are suing the government to reverse the ban on their service on grounds that it violates the First Amendment. All plaintiffs were up or served on the Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITAC), which are jointly managed by the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. 

Read the full The Hill article at http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/210439-lobbyists-sue-obama-after-being-booted-from-boards 

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Advisory Committees, Issues: Special Gov. Employees, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

February 13, 2012

Ethics Related News

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Misuse of Govt. Resources, Issues: Misuse of Position, News | Permalink

February 06, 2012

Shelby's STOCK Act

GovExec article discusses the implications of Congressman Shelby's amendments to the STOCK Act, introduced to address concerns about Congressmen not being covered by insider trading laws.  Under the amendment the impact has been expanded to try to cover many Executive Branch personnel.  As currently contemplated, the law could require:

  • Electronic availability of Public Financial Disclosure report
  • Posting of all stock trades of certain personnel, where the transaction exceeds $1,000, for all or some financial disclosure filers

See full article at http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2012/02/momentum-builds-require-feds-disclose-stock-trades/41092/.

For details about the various STOCK Act versions, see http://insidertrading.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004520.

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Issues: Misuse of Position, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

February 03, 2012

Interesting article on Congress' Insider Trading Bill

If you missed it, the Senate overwhelmingly (96-3) passed the bill that would impose insider training restrictions on lawmakers this week.  The House is expected to take it up next week.  Interestingly, attached conflicting amendments would further impose this on certain Executive Branch employees.  See Associated Press article at http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/02/03/house-ready-to-consider-insider-trading-ban/.

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

January 05, 2012

Ethics Related News (Int'l)

Posted by Account Deleted in News | Permalink

December 01, 2011

Govt attorney pleads guilty to conflict of interest

Consumer Products Safety Commission attorney plead guilty to a conflict of interest violation and filing false statements on his "ethics forms."  The charges stem from his claim to have “Insider Knowledge” in advertising his private law practice and his failure to disclose this outside business on his disclsoure reports.  He also represented a private client before the Federal Government.

Read the full DOJ press release, see http://www.justice.gov/usao/md/Public-Affairs/press_releases/press08/GovernmentLawyerGuiltyofConflictofInterestandFilingFalseDisclosureForms.html.

Posted by Account Deleted in Inspectors General, Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Issues: Financial Disclosure, News | Permalink

November 17, 2011

The removal appeal of the employee implicated in US v. POGO is remanded

Consequences of United States v. Project on Government Oversight, 525 F.Supp.2d, 161, 164 (D.D.C. 2007).  The Dept. of Interior employee, Robert Berman received notice of his proposed removal for misuse of public office for personal gain.  The Federal Circuit suspended its review of the case pending the outcome of the DC Circuit case on whether he violated 18 USC 209 by accepting an award from POGO.  Since that case was remanded for a new jury verdict, so was the personnel removal case. 

See Berman v. Department of the Interior, C.A.F.C. No. 2010-3052 (nonprecedential) (Nov. 7, 2011) at http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/10-3052.pdf.

Read related article at: http://www.fedsmith.com/articles/articles_display.php?a=3183&p=1

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Miscellaneous, MSPB, News | Permalink

"Financial Conflicts of Interest In and Out of Government" by Kathleen Clark

Several people have requested information related to Kathleen Clark's presentation at the September 2011 OGE Conference.  The article she wrote is published as "Financial Conflicts of Interest In and Out of Government" in the Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-02-03.  See http://law.wustl.edu/faculty_profiles/pages.aspx?id=223.

Posted by Account Deleted in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

Ethics related news items

Please see the following news items which are related to ethics:

Posted by Account Deleted in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

November 15, 2011

Presidential Executive Order: PROMOTING EFFICIENT SPENDING

On Nov. 9, 2011, the President signed an executive order to promote efficient spending in the Executive Branch.  See EO at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/09/executive-order-promoting-efficient-spending.  The EO is part of the Campaign to Cut Waste, and coincided with the announcement of the 2011 SAVE Award finalist.  See WH press release: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/09/we-cant-wait-president-obama-sign-executive-order-cut-waste-and-promote-.

Within 45 days, agencies must develop plans to reduce combined costs in the following areas to 20 percent below Fiscal Year 2010 levels by Fiscal Year 2013.

  1. Reduce Spending on Travel and Conferences.
  2. Cut Duplicative and Unnecessary Employee Information Technology Devices
  3. End Unnecessary Printing and Put It Online
  4. Limit Motor Vehicles
  5. Stop Swag – or Government Promotional Handouts

Posted by Account Deleted in Fiscal Law, Issues: Misuse of Govt. Resources, Issues: Travel, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

November 01, 2011

News of Interest

The following articles may be of interest for our followers:

Posted by Account Deleted in News, Procurement | Permalink

October 31, 2011

DOJ IG revises Conference "muffin" report

As a result of the responses and clarifications to the September IG report suggesting that DOJ approved and paid for $16.80 muffins at a 2009 conferences, the DOJ IG revised and reissued the report, superceding its prior report.  While the clarifications corrected the factual misstatements that the muffins at the given conference were $16.80 each, it still concludes that attention must be given to reducing excessing conference costs.  See DOJ revised report: http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/plus/a1143.pdf; and GovExec article: http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=49168&dcn=e_gvet.

Posted by Account Deleted in Fiscal Law, Issues: Misuse of Govt. Resources, News | Permalink

October 21, 2011

Ethics related news

Posted by Account Deleted in News | Permalink

October 17, 2011

DHS proposes additional restrictions on their employees

DHS' proposed supplemental ethics rules for its employees.  They include restrictions on the
purchase of certain Government-owned property, requiring employees to report allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse, requiring employees to seek prior approval for certain outside employment and activities, prohibiting employees in some DHS components from engaging in certain types of outside employment and activities, requiring designated components to develop instructions regarding the procedures for obtaining prior approval for outside employment and activities, and designating components within DHS as a separate agency for purposes of determining whether the donor of a gift is a "prohibited source" and of identifying an employee's agency for the regulations governing teaching, speaking, and writing.

See Fed. Reg. at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-10-12/html/2011-26160.htm

See articles discussion same: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/?nid=85&sid=2591216 and http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=49068&dcn=e_gvet

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Issues: Outside Activities, News | Permalink

October 16, 2011

Using Inmates to Take Cornerstone?

An IEC member drew our attention to a story about a sheriff who used jail inmates for a dubious acquistion of the keystone of a local high school. A city council member commented:

To use inmates to basically take public property is probably what got a few of them in jail to start with so maybe not the best idea he's ever had.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in News | Permalink

October 14, 2011

Ex-Fed pleads guilty to misuse of Govt Travel funds

A former civilian employee of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), a component of the Department of Defense, pleaded guilty today in Washington, D.C., to making more than $485,000 in false travel claims.  See full DOJ press release at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/October/11-crm-1358.html.

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Travel, News | Permalink

October 02, 2011

Washington Post Ombudsman's Take on Bogus $16 Muffin Story

Belatedly, this morning the Washington Post 's ombudsman looks into the Post's poor reporting on the Department of Justice conference spending story. He notes that DOJ spent $14.74 per person per day on all refreshments, a whole two cents above the limit of $14.76 per day. Since no one except green eyeshade types is going to get too excited about a two cents overage, rather than report the facts, the Post apparently decided to sex it up by going with a transparently inaccurate story about $16 muffins.

He includes this quote:

“Yes, we should have called Hilton,” said Barbara Vobejda, Markon’s editor. “While it does not excuse our failure to call, I can say that we did not realize until late that night on deadline which hotel hosted which conference; we did not necessarily feel the hotels had done anything wrong; and none of several editors who were involved in the story thought to suggest that we get comment from each of the hotels mentioned. That, in hindsight, was a mistake.”

Calling the Hilton would have been sound journalism, but it should not have been necessary. The numbers the Post went with were dubious on their face to anyone with even minimal experience dealing with hotels. It's well known that hotels don't necessarily break out cost categories precisely. Did none of the "several editors" who worked on the Post story have common sense or good judgment?

The ombudsman hinted at the real cause of this fiasco by noting early in his story that: "[A]s a journalist, my instinct tells me that the muffin story was just a bit too good to be true." He further notes, " All of us scribes love nothing more than to do a front-page story with national impact."

What the ombudsman is saying is that people at the Post wanted to write a story bashing government employees, and they did not let the facts get in the way. It's exactly what happened in the Post's coverage of the OGE conference. Reliable sources advise me the Post was given detailed information about actual OGE conference costs, but instead chose to go with snarky insinuations.

We strongly agree with the ombudsman's stated ideal, "But our first duty is to get as close to the truth as possible, even if that’s a bit less sensational."

Let's hope the Post tries to live up to this more often. A correction of their probably even worse reporting on the OGE conference would be a good place to start.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Fiscal Law, News | Permalink

POGO: Contractors Much More Expensive Than Civil Servants

Irrational bashing of civil servants has become so popular, it's a pleasant surprise to see an objective analysis. A Project on Government Oversight report demonstrates that civil servants are much more cost effective than contractors:

On average, Uncle Sam spends nearly twice as much when the government outsources a job as it would if it just hired another "expensive" federal worker, says a new report by the Project On Government Oversight, "Bad Business: Billions of Taxpayer Dollars Wasted on Hiring Contractors."

In researching this report, the POGO assessed contracts in 35 different job categories, comparing the total compensation for a federal employee with contractor annual billing rates to provide the same services. Astonishingly, in 33 of the categories, the federal employee cost the Treasury significantly less than the contractor.

Consider this example. For a "general attorney" on the public payroll, the government spends about $175,000 a year on salary and full benefits. If, however, the government hires a contractor to provide the same legal services, POGO found that we taxpayers would dole out almost $555,000 a year. Comparable findings surfaced in lots of other cases. Accountants on the public payroll cost us about $124,000 a year. If we engage them through a contractor, we spend about $283,000. Federal food inspectors carry a $58,000 yearly price tag as government employees, but cost about $75,000 if they're hired through a contractor.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Issues: Contractors in the Workplace, News | Permalink

October 01, 2011

DOJ IG Admits Muffin Error, But Who Deserves More Blame?

The originator of the bogus $16 muffin claims, the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General, has now admitted that the facts do not support the sensational claims of waste of government funds previously made. While DOJ has probably somewhat overpaid for conference expenses on some occasions, what large organization has never done so?'

Is this the end of the matter? I hope not. While the DOJ OIG was not completely blameless, the worst culprits here were the allegedly responsible journalistic organizations like the Washington Post who took a few dubious isolated sentences out of the IG report and distorted them into something totally misleading.

The urge to create a sensational headline--regardless of the facts--is reminiscent of the Post's attacks on this year's OGE conference. In both cases, the Post's coverage was more hit job than legitimate journalism.

We encourage the Post and other traditional media, whose recent financial struggles have been well documented, to strive as best they can to maintain journalistic accuracy and integrity as the inevitable downsizing continues. We hope these recent occurrences are aberrations, not early signs of deteriorating into yellow journalism at its worst.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in News | Permalink

September 27, 2011

More on the Mythical $16 Muffin

A colleague pointed out yesterday that the sensational headlines concerning the Department of Justice allegedly paying $16 for muffins at a 2009 Washington legal conference were apparently misleading. The Associated Press, Talking Points Memo and others have reached a similar conclusion. Writing for Mother Jones, Kevin Drum has a good explanation.

The initial erroneous reporting on this matter is reminiscent of the drive-by journalism attack on the Office of Government Ethics 2011 conference in Orlando. Bashing government is a time-honored journalistic tradition, and we would be the last to discourage it. However, it's a good idea to make sure you get the facts right.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Fiscal Law, News | Permalink