Government Ethics Education Year in Review
February 26, 2014
by Walter M. Shaub, Jr.
Ethics training is essential to ensuring uniformity in the application of ethics laws and policy. Training gives federal ethics officials the tools to manage their agencies’ ethics programs skillfully. As I discussed in a previous post recapping last year’s achievements, 2013 saw a significant expansion of OGE’s ethics education offerings. A few highlights of this education effort in 2013 demonstrate OGE’s commitment to supporting federal agency ethics programs during my first year as OGE’s Director, a commitment that will continue in 2014.
In May 2013, OGE launched the Institute for Ethics in Government. Establishment of the Institute brought all of OGE’s education offerings together under one umbrella with a dedicated staff. For example, through the Institute, OGE now offers two monthly distance-learning series targeting new and experienced ethics practitioners, respectively.
The Fundamentals Series provides basic training to new and part-time ethics officials, such as training on review and certification of financial disclosure reports. The Advanced Practitioner Series allows OGE to disseminate new ethics law and policy guidance to advanced ethics practitioners. For example, OGE held a session on OGE’s written guidance on the effect of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision regarding same-sex marriages in United States v. Windsor.
In 2013, the Institute also debuted two new in-person, instructor-led training programs. Through the Intensive Curriculum in Ethics program, the Institute provides nine full workdays of instruction to ethics officials who are new to leadership roles in their agencies’ ethics programs. Through the Instructor Development Program, the Institute teaches experienced ethics officials how to deliver OGE-created courses and certifies successful participants to deliver these courses to employees of their own agencies. Preparing ethics officials to independently teach courses developed by OGE leverages agency resources to expand the reach of OGE’s education program and gives agencies control over the professional development of their staffs.
In August 2013, OGE partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to host the first in a series of large-scale ethics symposia. The event brought together approximately 200 ethics officials from 59 agencies to learn about the ethics laws and regulations related to the lifecycle of Presidential appointees. Building on the success of this symposium, OGE plans to host similar events twice per year. We are planning our second symposium for March 2014.
Through these education activities, OGE and participating agencies have consciously sought to give the taxpayers more value at less cost than ever before. OGE’s partners in conserving federal resources have included the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Federal Trade Commission, and others. These agencies have allowed OGE to use their existing federal facilities for training events, which eliminates rental fees and enables OGE and the Institute to reach greater numbers of ethics officials than we were able to reach in the past. We are grateful to the leaders of these agencies who have demonstrated support for the ethics program and genuine concern for saving the taxpayers money. With the help of these and other federal agencies, OGE will continue delivering high-quality training at low cost.