On November 2, 2016, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issued a final rule amending the regulations that set forth the elements and procedures of the executive branch ethics program by defining and describing the executive branch ethics program, delineating the responsibilities of various stakeholders, and enumerating key executive branch ethics procedures. The final rule amends 5 C.F.R. part 2638 by creating six new subparts: (A) Mission and Responsibilities; (B) Procedures of the Executive Branch Ethics Program; (C) Government Ethics Education; (D) Correction of Executive Branch Agency Ethics Programs; (E) Corrective Action Involving Individual Employees; and (F) General Provisions. The final rule is effective January 1, 2017.
Among the more notable amendments, the final rule centralizes the procedures for the executive branch ethics program under subpart B. Currently, these procedures are not only found in various subparts of the existing regulations, including subpart C (Formal Advisory Opinion Service) and subpart F (Executive Branch Agency Reports), but also in several advisories available on OGE’s website. These procedures relate to the furnishing of information, records and reports to OGE; the executive branch’s collection of financial disclosure reports; and the issuance of formal advisory opinions and other written guidance by OGE. Further, the amended subpart B includes procedures that pertain to ethics preparations for presidential transitions.
The final rule also amends subpart D, which establishes procedures for the correction of executive branch ethics programs. These procedures are implemented when there are indications that an agency ethics program is not in compliance with the requirements set forth in applicable government ethics laws and regulations. Subpart D amends the current procedures by enumerating several informal actions that the Director of OGE may take in order to bring the agency into compliance. These informal actions are in addition to the formal action that may be taken by the Director of OGE in the event informal action does not resolve the deficiency.