My current Government Agency has a lot of Ethics Policies. There are rules regarding conflict of interest, gifts, misuse of government resources, travel rules, outside activities, and post-government employment. It is a lot to remember – and in fact, it is impossible to remember all the rules. Therefore, an ethics official or representative is assigned to every office and unit to help employees know what to do and when.
One of the excellent rules is that you can get a waiver under certain circumstances to be held innocent of an ethics violation if you obtain the waiver BEFORE you take the action. For instance – normally you cannot accept a gift of over $20 from a prohibited source (typically this is a contractor that either does or can potentially provide service to the government). However, if you get a waiver beforehand for a special occasion, then it is okay. An example is that a large contracting company is sponsoring a conference and you have been invited as a speaker for the banquet. You are attending an official capacity as a Government employee – therefore you cannot accept an honorarium or payment for your speech. But can you accept the banquet dinner or travel to the banquet? Generally, the answer is no. However, under these circumstances you may ask the Ethics Officer for a waiver and – if you get one – you can accept the dinner and/or travel.
A definite area for improvement of our ethics rules is in our post-employment activities. Generally, you must wait for a year to engage with any contractor with which you worked in the Government. That means after I retired from the Government I could not work for or have any financial interest in any of the vendors I had any connection within my last year of work with the Government. Several potential retirees I know started to recuse themselves from working any contracts in their last year of employment and it became a huge problem in getting these employees to do anything in their last year. It was similar to our M6A1 situation where the retiring person was not performing up to standards. To change this rule, I would consider some of the following choices:
1 – Provide a waiver so the retiring employee could engage with a vendor during their last year and then deal with them after a shorter amount of time once they retire (perhaps 2 months).
2 – Limit the involvement of the retiring employee with vendors – but do not eliminate it altogether. Perhaps they are allowed to work with the vendor – but not make any decisions regarding the vendor’s future use or any financial decisions regarding the vendor.
3 – Provide the retiring employee a financial bonus that would cover any potential loss of income by not being able to work with the vendors they previously worked with during their last year of employment.
Which of these three options would you pick – and why?
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