March 18, 1999DO-99-011
Designated Agency Ethics Officials
Stephen D. PottsDirector
Recent OGE Forms Renewal Matters
Certain of the ethics forms that the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) sponsors for executive branchwide use require periodic (usually three year) renewal of approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act or from the General Services Administration (GSA) under the interagency reports program. These renewals also present an opportunity to update the forms as needed. Over the past year, OGE has been working to secure such forms renewal clearances from both OMB and GSA, as explained in this memorandum.
Separate DAEOgrams will be issued upon the final clearance of the more significant updated individual forms, such as the SF 278 and the OGE Forms 450 and 201. In addition to distribution of the revised forms to departments and agencies by DAEOgram, OGE will continue its practice of providing electronic copies of these forms (as modified) in Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF) file format on the Ethics Resource Library section of our Internet Web site (address: http://www.usoge.gov) and in future editions of The Ethics CD-ROM. In the near future, OGE also plans to provide electronically fillable copies of these forms on both our Web site and CD-ROM. Although these fillable electronic versions will still require that the forms be printed and manually signed by the filers, the data will be capable of being saved and updated in subsequent filings.
Proposed Slightly Revised OGE Form 450
OGE recently issued its second round paperwork renewal notice for a proposed slightly revised OGE Form 450 Executive Branch Confidential Financial Disclosure Report. Any comments on this notice are due by April 1, 1999. See the attached copy of 64 Federal Register 10151-10153 (March 2, 1999). The changes proposed to the OGE Form 450 are minor, mostly stylistic in nature (including adding a block to indicate page numbers on the report). One substantive update is noted for the future. The reporting thresholds for gifts and travel reimbursements, currently set at $250 per source overall with a $100 de minimis threshold for aggregation purposes, will have to be adjusted if, as expected later this year, GSA raises the "minimal value" under the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, 5 U.S.C. § 7342, to over $250 for the period 1999-2001. Section 102(a)(2)(A) and (B) of the Ethics in Government Act as amended (the Ethics Act), 5 U.S.C. appendix, § 102(a)(2)(A) and (B), requires that the gifts/reimbursements reporting thresholds be so adjusted. The adjustment would be modest, but would need to be reflected on both the OGE Form 450 and the SF 278 (see below). Departments and agencies can obtain a mark-up copy of the form as proposed for revision from their respective OGE desk officers. See also the first round paperwork notice, as published at 63 Federal Register 56189-56191 (October 21, 1998).
Proposed Slightly Revised OGE Form 201
OGE has issued its first round paperwork renewal notice for a proposed slightly revised version of the OGE Form 201, "Request to Inspect or Receive Copies of SF 278 Executive Branch Personnel Public Financial Disclosure Report or Other Covered Record." Any comments are due by April 20, 1999. See the attached copy of 64 Federal Register 5657-5658 (February 4, 1999). The proposed minor revisions include a reference to a few types of additional qualified trust materials available upon request. Moreover, OGE will adjust the referenced civil monetary penalty under section 104 of the Ethics in Government Act for misuse of an SF 278 report to which access has been granted from $10,000 to $11,000 once future rulemakings by OGE and the Department of Justice take effect in accordance with inflation adjustments provided for under the 1996 Debt Collection Improvement Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2461 note. Finally, OGE would make certain minor changes to the privacy and paperwork statements on the form. Departments and agencies can obtain a mark-up copy of the OGE Form 201 showing all the proposed changes from their OGE desk officers.
Standard Form 278
OGE will soon publish its first round paperwork renewal notice for the Standard Form (SF) 278 Executive Branch Personnel Public Financial Disclosure Report, for three-year renewal. The proposed updated SF 278 will propose modest changes, not any major revisions to the form's substance or design. These changes would incorporate on the form and its instructions the new higher-value categories of reporting for various items. A required paperwork statement regarding the necessity of a valid OMB control number on the form would also be included. For the past three years, agencies have been asked to notify their filers by memorandum of these matters. See particularly OGE DAEOgrams DO-96-038 (October 16, 1996) and DO- 96-006 (January 29, 1996). OGE would also adjust the references to the civil money penalty for misuse of a report and the reporting thresholds for gifts and travel reimbursements, as explained above for the OGE Forms 450 and 201, respectively. Furthermore, OGE would add to the form a new continuation page for transactions. Finally, OGE would propose to make a few other minor, stylistic changes, such as updating the dates of examples on the form.
Due to the importance of the SF 278 report form, OGE will issue separate DAEOgrams for the various stages of its upcoming paperwork and standard form revision and renewal. Once the updated SF 278 is approved by OMB (for paperwork renewal) and GSA (for standard form revision) sometime this fall, the new edition of the form will be available for purchase nationwide from GSA's Federal Supply Service Customer Supply Centers and will be posted on the OGE Web site and ethics CD-ROM.
These forthcoming changes will not affect the annual SF 278 reports for calendar year 1998 which are due to be filed by May 15, 1999. Agencies should continue to use the existing 6/94 edition of the SF 278 report form (or its immediate predecessor the 1/91 edition) for those forthcoming annual reports.
Last year, OGE secured renewed three-year paperwork clearance from OMB, until October 31, 2001, for somewhat revised and updated model Ethics Act-qualified blind and qualified diversified trust certificates and model drafts. This set of twelve model qualified trust certificates and drafts is used in the qualified trust program OGE oversees. See 63 Federal Register 20411-20412 (April 24, 1998), 63 Federal Register 45817-45819 (August 27, 1998) and 63 Federal Register 58619-58620 (November 2, 1998).
Last summer and fall, OGE obtained three-year renewals from the General Services Administration of the interagency reports clearance for two of its forms used by departments and agencies throughout the executive branch to report covered information to OGE. The two forms, which OGE also somewhat modified and updated at the time, are the OGE Form 202 "Notification of Conflict of Interest Referral" (clearance now extended to August 31, 2001), and the annual Agency Ethics Program Questionnaire form (clearance now extended to October 31, 2001). See OGE DAEOgrams DO-98-027 (September 8, 1998) and DO-98-028 (November 4, 1998).
Finally, last year OGE also obtained three-year paperwork approval, until October 31, 2001, from OMB for a new Public Financial Disclosure Access Customer Service Survey form. This survey form will be used at OGE only and will be mailed to members of the public who request access to SF 278 reports in order to assess the quality of OGE's service in this important area and to identify any suggestions for improvement. See 63 Federal Register 33668 (June 19, 1998) and 63 Federal Register 49697-49698 (September 17, 1998).