Frequently Asked Questions - Government Property-Time-Resources

Use of Government Property

Question: My office mate is a licensed attorney practicing law in addition to working here in a non-legal position. I have seen him use his Government computer to prepare his private, business-related correspondence and what appears to be legal briefs. I also have seen him bring up his list of clients from the hard drive on his computer. Is he allowed to do this? If not, what should I do?

Answer: His activity is not permitted. Government property, including computers and printers, may not be used to maintain one's legal practice or other private business. See 5 CFR § 2635.704

You have a duty to report your coworker's conduct to your supervisor or to the Office of Inspector General (1-800-424-5081) outside Washington, DC and (202) 208-5300 within the Washington Metropolitan Area. In addition, you can complete and submit the Complaint Form (​) and fax it to: 703-478-5402 (Attention: Hotline Operations); or mail the completed form to:

U.S. Department of the Interior
Office of Inspector General
1849 C Street, NW, MS-4428
Washington, DC 20240
Attention: Hotline Operations

Government Time and Resources

Question: What is the basic rule?

Answer: The rule is simple. We may not use our public office for private gain. This includes our own private gain, or that of anyone else. However, the rule sweeps quite broadly, and applies in a wide variety of circumstances. The rule also covers misuse of non-public information, and misuse of Government property or time.

Question: A book publisher contacted me, as an expert in the field, to review a new book. May I do so?

Answer: Not if you use your official title or refer to DOI in so doing. Federal employees may not endorse through their Government positions, titles, or other authority the products, services, or activities of non-Federal entities.

Question: I have a business at home, and my computer here at work has exactly the software package I need to keep my mailing lists.

Answer: Stop right there. Employees may not use Government property for other then authorized purposes per 410 DM 2 (2002). DOI computers and networks are provided to employees for conducting official business only. Official business means internal and external communication and preparation and delivery of products or services which are part of one's duties and require the use of DOI's computer equipment, software and networks.

Supervisors may permit limited personal use and internet services (World Wide Web) provided the use does not interfere with the employee's work or the work of others, and provided this privilege is not abused. It is not permissible to access, download, or print material which would offend others or create a hostile work environment. Access to the Web should be limited to brief periods when it can reasonably be assumed by supervisors, other employees and the public, that the employee is in a non-duty status, such as during the lunch break.

Expressly prohibited use of DOI computers and networks is that which is clearly not related to official business, such as conducting commercial or non-profit personal business, performing personal work (finances, investments, purchases, legal correspondence); performing work for non-work related organizations (social, political, religious), sending chain letters or social messages, playing computer games; or engaging in political activity.

Although computers seem to get all the attention these days, remember that Government property includes office supplies, telephone, copiers, and any other property purchased with Government funds.