May 1, 2014 is Law Day. The theme for this year is “American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters.” I'm going to expand that theme and focus on American Democracy and the Rule of Law. For the next several minutes, I will explain the role the Department's ethics program plays in the rule of law.
In part, the rule of law is dependent upon the Government's integrity. In turn, the Government's integrity is dependent upon public officials performing their duties in the public's interest. When public officials act contrary to that notion, it threatens the public's confidence in its leaders. In turn, the lack of confidence may lead the public to question the necessity of adhering to established laws and regulations.
The integrity infrastructure can be viewed as a three-legged stool: The stool is comprised of prevention, investigation and prosecution. Prevention raises awareness and prevents unintentional wrong-doing. Investigation determines ether wrong-doing did in fact occur. Prosecution encourages compliance by taking action against those who commit wrong-doing.
The role of ethics is firmly established as the primary prevention tool. Prevention is carried out through training—educating public officials about their roles and responsibilities and the workplace rules they are to follow as they carry out the mission of the agency. Prevention is also carried out through financial disclosure—providing transparency into Government decisionmaking and ensuring the principle of impartiality. Last, prevention is carried out through advice and counsel—helping public officials navigate the tricky waters of the conflict of interest statutes and code of conduct regulations.
The ethics framework is long-established. The Ethics in Government Act of 178 established the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. OGE is an independent agency responsibility for exercising leadership in the executive branch to prevent conflicts of interest on the part of public officials and to resolve those conflicts of interest that do occur. OGE does not and cannot carry out this responsibility alone. It works in concert with the other 133 executive branch agencies, all of which are required to have their own ethics program.
Within each executive branch agency, there is a Designated Agency Ethics Official who breathes life into the ethics program on a daily basis. Agency DAEOs are the primary intermediaries between the policies OGE issues and public officials. However, regardless of the size of the staff that supports these DAEOs, the ultimate champions of public integrity are the 4 million employees (both civilian and military) that make up the executive branch workforce.
At the Department of the Interior, Secretary Jewell has the ultimate responsibility for creating the political commitment to maintain a strong ethics program. Secretary Jewell works closely with Melinda Loftin, our DAEO. Melinda, in turn, carries out her responsibilities through partnership with the Deputy Ethics Counselors who are located within each Bureau. But, of course, we are relying on all of you to ensure we live up to our motto of “stewardship for America with integrity and excellence.” With your help, we can ensure that the Department does its part to ensure the Government's overall integrity and to strengthen America's rule of law.
Thank you for taking a few minute of your day to learn about how ethics plays a role in the rule of law. If you have questions about this presentation or any code of conduct issues, please feel free to contact your ethics official
Provides information about how our ethics program operates and its relationship with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.