oversight

Federal Ethics Programs: Government-wide Political Appointee Data and Some Ethics Oversight Procedures at Interior and SBA Could Be Improved

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2019-03-15.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

             United States Government Accountability Office
             Report to Congressional Requesters




             FEDERAL ETHICS
March 2019




             PROGRAMS

             Government-wide
             Political Appointee
             Data and Some Ethics
             Oversight Procedures
             at Interior and SBA
             Could Be Improved




GAO-19-249
                                             March 2019

                                             FEDERAL ETHICS PROGRAMS
                                             Government-wide Political Appointee Data and Some
                                             Ethics Oversight Procedures at Interior and SBA
Highlights of GAO-19-249, a report to
                                             Could Be Improved
congressional requesters




Why GAO Did This Study                       What GAO Found
Federal agencies’ ethics programs            There is no single source of data on political appointees serving in the executive
seek to prevent conflicts of interest and    branch that is publicly available, comprehensive, and timely. Political appointees
safeguard the integrity of governmental      make or advocate policy for a presidential administration or support those
decision-making.                             positions. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and two
GAO was asked to review compliance           nongovernmental organizations collect, and in some cases, report data on
with ethics requirements for political       political appointees, but the data are incomplete. For example, the data did not
appointees in the executive branch.          include information on political appointee positions within the Executive Office of
This report examines the extent to           the President. The White House Office of Presidential Personnel (PPO)
which (1) existing data identify political   maintains data but does not make them publicly available.
appointees serving in the executive
                                             The public has an interest in knowing the political appointees serving and this
branch, and (2) selected agencies use
internal controls to reasonably ensure
                                             information would facilitate congressional oversight and hold leaders
that their ethics programs are designed      accountable. As of March 2019, no agency in the federal government is required
and implemented to meet statutory and        to publicly report comprehensive and timely data on political appointees serving
regulatory requirements.                     in the executive branch. OPM is positioned to maintain and make political
                                             appointee data publicly available on a timely basis but is limited in its ability to
GAO reviewed available data on               provide comprehensive data. PPO has more comprehensive data but may not be
political appointees. GAO also               positioned to publish data on a recurring basis. Ultimately, it is a policy decision
reviewed three case study agencies           as to which agency is best positioned to report comprehensive and timely data
selected to provide a range in agency        on political appointees.
size and number of political
appointees. GAO reviewed ethics              All three agencies GAO reviewed generally used appropriate internal controls to
documentation for a nongeneralizable         ensure they met basic ethics program requirements, though two of the agencies
sample of political appointees at the        could take actions to strengthen their ethics programs.
three agencies at any point between
January 2017 and 2018 and                        •   The Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Interior
interviewed officials from the agencies              (Interior), and the Small Business Administration (SBA) all have
and two non-governmental                             procedures for administering their financial disclosure systems. HHS and
organizations.                                       Interior had procedures for providing initial ethics training as required
                                                     beginning in January 2017. Prior to February 2019 SBA did not have
What GAO Recommends                                  written procedures for initial ethics training and did not adequately
Congress should consider legislation                 document political appointees’ training dates. SBA’s written procedures
requiring the publication of political               now reflect the requirements of initial ethics training and SBA developed
appointees serving in the executive                  a tracking sheet to indicate appointees completed training. GAO will
branch. GAO also recommends three                    assess the implementation of the tracking sheet to confirm the process is
actions: SBA should document that                    sufficient for documenting appointees’ completion of initial ethics training.
training was completed; Interior should
conduct more strategic planning for its          •   Interior’s ethics program has human capital and workforce continuity
ethics workforce and document ethics                 challenges. Interior reported that four out of 14 full-time positions were
program policies and procedures. SBA                 vacant. Interior officials attributed the vacancies to a recent
neither agreed nor disagreed with                    transformation of the ethics program and prioritizing the staffing at
GAO’s recommendation, but provided                   individual bureaus such as the National Park Service. However,
documentation that partially addresses               vacancies affected the ethics program’s ability to properly document
the recommendation. Interior agreed                  policies and procedures as well as file and review financial disclosure
with GAO’s recommendations.                          forms. According to Interior officials, steps are being taken to address
                                                     vacancies and document policies and procedures. However, GAO found
View GAO-19-249. For more information,               that a more strategic and documented approach would enable Interior to
contact Tranchau (Kris) T. Nguyen at (202)
512-6806 or NguyenTT@gao.gov.
                                                     better manage human capital, fill key positions, and maintain institutional
                                                     knowledge.


                                                                                      United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                   1
               Background                                                                4
               No Single Source of Data on Political Appointees Exists That Is
                 Comprehensive, Timely, and Publicly Available                         10
               SBA and Interior Ethics Programs Did Not Meet All
                 Documentation Requirements and Interior and HHS Had
                 Workforce Continuity Challenges                                       14
               Conclusions                                                             25
               Matter for Congressional Consideration                                  26
               Recommendations for Executive Action                                    26
               Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                      26

Appendix I     Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                      29



Appendix II    Use of Internal Controls in Reviewed Agencies’ Ethics Programs          33



Appendix III   Ethics Provisions Applicable to Political Appointees and Results of
               Political Appointee Ethics Documentation Analysis                       34



Appendix IV    Comments from the Department of the Interior                            36



Appendix V     Comments from the U.S. Small Business Administration                    38



Appendix VI    Comments from the United States Office of Government Ethics             42



Appendix VII   GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                   44




               Page i                                                     GAO-19-249 Ethics
Tables
          Table 1: Filing and Review Timeliness of Public Financial
                  Disclosure Reports for a Nongeneralizable Sample of
                  Political Appointees Serving between January 20, 2017
                  and January 28, 2018                                        16
          Table 2: Analysis of Internal Control Principles to Reviewed
                  Agencies’ Ethics Programs                                   33
          Table 3: Number of Sampled Political Appointees in Each Agency
                  That Addressed Selected Ethics Requirements                 34

Figures
          Figure 1: Executive Branch Ethics Program Mission, Roles, and
                   Selected Responsibilities                                    6
          Figure 2: Most Recently Published Data on the Number and Type
                   of Political Appointees Positions, as of June 2016           9




          Page ii                                                GAO-19-249 Ethics
Abbreviations

DAEO              Designated Agency Ethics Official
DOJ               Department of Justice
EHRI              Enterprise Human Resources Integration
EOP               Executive Office of the President
FOIA              Freedom of Information Act
HHS               Department of Health and Human Services
Interior          Department of the Interior
OIG               Office of Inspector General
OGE               Office of Government Ethics
OMB               Office of Management and Budget
OPM               Office of Personnel Management
PAS               Presidential Appointee with Senate confirmation
Plum Book         United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions
PPO               Office of Presidential Personnel
SBA               Small Business Administration
SES               Senior Executive Service


This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the
United States. The published product may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety
without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain
copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be
necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately.




Page iii                                                                GAO-19-249 Ethics
                       Letter




441 G St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20548




                       March 14, 2019

                       The Honorable Gary C. Peters
                       Ranking Member
                       Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
                       United States Senate

                       The Honorable Thomas R. Carper
                       Ranking Member
                       Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
                       Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
                       United States Senate

                       The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings
                       Chairman
                       Committee on Oversight and Reform
                       House of Representatives

                       The basic obligation of public service is to place loyalty to the
                       Constitution, laws, and ethical principles above private gain. By acting
                       ethically, government officials can increase public confidence in the
                       integrity of the federal government. Federal agencies’ ethics programs
                       are to support ethical behavior by seeking to prevent conflicts of interest
                       and safeguard the integrity of governmental decision-making. Ethics
                       programs establish a foundation on which to build and sustain an ethical
                       culture in the executive branch, including among the political appointees
                       who can constitute the top management of executive branch agencies. 1

                       You asked us to review compliance with ethics requirements as they
                       relate to political appointees in the executive branch. This report
                       examines the extent to which (1) existing data identify political appointees
                       serving in the executive branch at any point in time, and (2) selected
                       agencies use appropriate internal controls to reasonably ensure that their
                       ethics programs are designed and implemented to meet statutory and
                       regulatory requirements. This report does not assess the overall
                       objectives of federal agencies ethics programs and if those objectives are
                       being effectively met.


                       1
                       5 C.F.R. § 2638.101.




                       Page 1                                                       GAO-19-249 Ethics
For the first objective, we reviewed relevant laws and standards and the
United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions (Plum Book). 2
We interviewed officials from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
to understand the data they collect on political appointees. We also
interviewed officials from two nongovernmental organizations, ProPublica
and the Partnership for Public Service, which track political appointees
serving in the executive branch at any point in time. We contacted the
White House Office of Presidential Personnel (PPO) to discuss and
request information on how it tracks, maintains, and uses data on political
appointees. PPO redirected our request for information to the White
House Counsel’s Office. As of March 2019, the White House Counsel’s
Office had not responded to our requests for information. We interviewed
two senior PPO officials from the two previous administrations to
understand how they tracked and used data on political appointees. We
assessed the information we gathered against principles for internal
control regarding external communication and directives for the
transparency and public availability of government data. 3

For the second objective, we interviewed officials from the Office of
Government Ethics (OGE), which sets policy for the executive branch
ethics program and monitors ethics program compliance. We selected
four agencies as case studies for review of their ethics programs. We
selected the four agencies to provide a range in the number and type of
political appointees in each agency, 4 a range in agency size, and a range
in the strength of their ethics programs, as determined by prior OGE
program reviews. 5 We conducted case studies on three of the agencies

2
 Every 4 years, just after the Presidential election, the Plum Book is published, alternately,
by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The Plum Book lists civil
service leadership and support positions that may be subject to noncompetitive status.
3
 GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, GAO-14-704G
(Washington, D.C.: Sept. 2014); and Office of Management and Budget, Open
Government Directive, M-10-06 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 8, 2009).
4
 The four major types of political appointees include: presidential appointees with Senate
confirmation, presidential appointees, noncareer Senior Executive Service, and Schedule
Cs. A Schedule C employee is an employee in a position that is excepted from the
competitive service because of its policy-determining nature, or because it involves a
close and confidential working relationship with the agency head or other top appointed
official.
5
 OGE reviews assess individual agency compliance with executive branch ethics laws,
regulations, and policies and evaluate the agency’s systems, processes, and procedures
for administering its ethics program. Reviews are generally conducted every 4 to 5 years.




Page 2                                                                    GAO-19-249 Ethics
we selected: the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), the
Interior (Interior), and the Small Business Administration (SBA). The
fourth agency selected was the Executive Office of the President (EOP).
We contacted the White House Counsel’s Office in February 2018 to
solicit the EOP’s perspective on the ethics program in place at the White
House, and oversight of ethics compliance for political appointees in the
executive branch. As of March 2019, the White House Counsel’s Office
had not responded to our requests for information. Therefore, we did not
review the EOP ethics program.

To evaluate the extent to which the three case study agencies have and
use appropriate internal controls, we reviewed selected principles from
the Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government (Standards
for Internal Control). These standards call for management to design
control activities, such as policies and procedures to achieve objectives.
Based on our review, analysis, and professional judgment, we selected
the internal control principles that were most relevant to effectively
executing an executive branch ethics program. We provided each agency
with an identical set of questions based on the selected internal control
principles and components. We reviewed agency responses to our
questions and supporting program and appointee documentation to
evaluate whether agencies’ policies and processes for overseeing ethics
compliance for political appointees were consistent with these principles.

In addition, we acquired data from HHS, Interior, and SBA, on political
appointees serving at any point between January 20, 2017 and January
28, 2018. To assess the reliability of the data, we asked each agency’s
officials about how the data were obtained, where the data came from,
and what steps, if any, each agency took to assure the accuracy and
completeness of the data. Based on responses provided by HHS, Interior,
and SBA, we determined that those agencies’ data were sufficiently
reliable to indicate each agency’s political appointees, with start and end
dates, for use selecting a sample of appointees’ at each agency. Next, we
used a nongeneralizable random sampling method to select political
appointees at each agency. We selected 12 political appointees at both




Page 3                                                     GAO-19-249 Ethics
                          HHS and Interior, and 10 political appointees at SBA. 6 We reviewed
                          relevant documentation for these appointees to determine whether
                          agency internal controls were sufficient to ensure that certain ethics
                          program requirements, such as signing the ethics pledge, completing
                          initial ethics training, and submitting a financial disclosure report, were
                          met. In addition, we interviewed agency ethics officials, as needed, to
                          discuss the documentation and information they provided. Our review of
                          political appointees’ documentation was limited to testing the agencies’
                          ethics program processes and procedures. We did not review individual
                          financial disclosure forms with the intent of identifying conflicts of interest
                          nor did we perform a conflict of interest analysis. See appendix I for a
                          more detailed description of our scope and methodology.

                          We conducted this performance audit from October 2017 to March 2019
                          in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
                          Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
                          sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
                          findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
                          the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
                          conclusions based on our audit objectives.



Background
Executive Branch Ethics   The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 was enacted to preserve and
Program                   promote the accountability and integrity of public officials, and the
                          institutions of the federal government. 7 The act requires political
                          appointees and high-ranking government officials to complete a public
                          financial disclosure report to help prevent and mitigate conflicts of interest
                          for the purpose of increasing public confidence in the integrity of


                          6
                            To ensure we included certain types of political appointees in our review, we grouped the
                          political appointees from each agency into three groups: (1) individuals in PAS positions,
                          (2) individuals who left the agency during the time frame of our review, and (3) all
                          remaining individuals. We randomly selected three appointees from the first group, three
                          appointees from the second group, and six political appointees from the last group. At
                          SBA, the total PAS appointees and total individuals who left the agency during our review
                          time frame was less than six. As a result, there were fewer total appointees in our SBA
                          sample compared to HHS and Interior.
                          7
                           Pub. L. No. 95-521, 92 Stat. 1824 (1978), codified, as amended at 5 U.S.C. App. §§ 101–
                          505 and in scattered sections of titles 2, 5, 18, 28, United States Code.




                          Page 4                                                                  GAO-19-249 Ethics
government. The act also established restrictions on postemployment
activities of certain employees, and created OGE.

The primary mission of the executive branch ethics program is to prevent
conflicts of interest on the part of executive branch employees. 8 The
executive branch ethics program is a shared responsibility across
government (see figure 1).

•   OGE is the supervising ethics office for the executive branch and sets
    policy for the entire executive branch ethics program.
•   Executive branch agency heads are responsible for leading their
    agency’s ethics program. Agency leaders are ultimately responsible
    for their organizations’ ethical culture. Their actions can demonstrate
    the level of commitment to ethics and set a powerful example for their
    employees. 9
•   Designated Agency Ethics Officials (DAEO) and other agency
    ethics staff carry out ethics program responsibilities and coordinate
    with OGE.
•   Inspectors General and the Department of Justice are authorized
    to investigate potential violations of criminal statutes pertaining to
    ethics.
•   Executive branch employees are individually responsible for
    understanding and complying with the requirements of ethics laws
    and regulations, and are collectively responsible for making ethical
    conduct a standard of government service.




8
5 C.F.R. § 2638.101(a).
9
 OGE Memorandum, The Role of Agency Leaders in Promoting an Ethical Culture, (Oct.
5, 2017).




Page 5                                                            GAO-19-249 Ethics
Figure 1: Executive Branch Ethics Program Mission, Roles, and Selected Responsibilities




                                        Page 6                                            GAO-19-249 Ethics
Ethics Laws for Executive   Executive branch employees are ultimately responsible for understanding
Branch Employees            and abiding by the various ethics laws. Generally, executive branch
                            employees are prohibited from working on government matters that will
                            affect their personal financial interest or the financial interests of a spouse
                            or minor child; general partner; any organization in which they serve as
                            an officer, director, or trustee; and any person or organization with whom
                            they are negotiating or have an arrangement for future employment. 10
                            Executive branch employees are also subject to

                            •     criminal statutes prohibiting bribery and illegal gratuities;
                            •     civil statutes requiring public financial disclosure; and
                            •     employee standards of conduct, such as acting at all times in the
                                  public’s interest, serving as good stewards of public resources, and
                                  refraining from misusing their office for private gain. 11
                            Agency Offices of Inspectors General (OIG) have a responsibility to
                            investigate potential ethics violations. 12 Among our three case study
                            agencies, since January 2017, the HHS and Interior OIG have
                            investigated potential travel and ethics issues involving political
                            appointees while the SBA OIG did not initiate any similar investigations.
                            The HHS OIG investigated the former Secretary of HHS’s use of
                            chartered and commercial aircraft and found that it did not always comply
                            with applicable federal travel regulations and HHS policies and
                            procedures. 13 In response to its OIG’s findings, HHS implemented
                            additional steps for political appointees’ travel approval. Since January
                            2017, the Interior OIG has initiated five investigations into potential ethics
                            violations involving the former Secretary of the Interior. 14 As of March 1,
                            2019, three investigations related to the former Secretary were
                            completed. As a result of the first completed investigation, the Interior

                            10
                                18 U.S.C. § 208; 5 C.F.R. § 2635.402(a), (b)(2).
                            11
                                5 C.F.R. § 2638.102.
                            12
                                5 C.F.R. § 2638.106.
                            13
                              Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The
                            Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services Did Not Comply with Federal
                            Regulations for Chartered Aircraft and Other Government Travel Related to Former
                            Secretary Price Report No.: A-12-17-00002 (July 2018).
                            14
                              The Interior OIG initiated an investigation related to the unprofessional behavior of
                            another political appointee at Interior. The OIG ended the investigation after the appointee
                            resigned.




                            Page 7                                                                   GAO-19-249 Ethics
                             OIG found that “incomplete information” about the former Secretary’s
                             travel and use of chartered flights during 2017 was provided to the DAEO
                             for review. The other two completed investigations found no evidence that
                             the former Secretary violated ethics laws. Two investigations remained
                             open as of March 2019. Interior’s DAEO described multiple strategies that
                             were implemented to address issues observed within the ethics program
                             after he was hired in April 2018, such as establishing weekly meetings
                             with the former Secretary of the Interior to discuss ethics matters.


Executive Branch Political   Executive Branch political appointees are subject to more ethics
Appointees                   restrictions than other executive branch employees. Appointees make or
                             advocate policy for a presidential administration or support those
                             positions. Appointees generally serve at the pleasure of the appointing
                             authority and do not have the civil service protections afforded to other
                             federal employees.

                             There are four major categories of political appointees: Presidential
                             Appointees with Senate confirmation (PAS); presidential appointees;
                             noncareer employees in the Senior Executive Service (SES); and
                             Schedule C employees. The most recent Plum Book, which was
                             published on December 1, 2016, identified about 4,000 political appointee
                             positions from these four major categories across the entire executive
                             branch as of June 30, 2016 (see figure 2). The Plum Book identifies
                             presidentially appointed positions within the federal government using
                             data from the Office of Personnel Management. It is published every 4
                             years just after the presidential election, alternately, by the Senate
                             Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the
                             House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.




                             Page 8                                                     GAO-19-249 Ethics
Figure 2: Most Recently Published Data on the Number and Type of Political
Appointees Positions, as of June 2016




In addition to the ethics laws for executive branch employees, several
recent presidential administrations have issued an order requiring political
appointees in executive branch agencies to sign an ethics pledge. 15
Some of the restrictions in the ethics pledge relate to areas already
covered under existing ethics provisions, such as restrictions on
accepting gifts and postemployment restrictions. Political appointees may
receive an ethics pledge waiver from the President or his designee of
certain or all ethics restrictions and authorizations enabling them to
participate in otherwise prohibited activities. Political appointees that sign

15
  President Trump issued Executive Order No. 13770 (EO 13770), “Ethics Commitments
by Executive Branch Appointees,” on January 28, 2017. 82 Fed. Reg. 9333 (Feb. 3,
2017). Prior administrations issued their own ethics pledges, including President Obama
(EO 13490) and President Clinton (EO 12834). 74 Fed. Reg. 4673 (Jan. 26, 2009); 58
Fed. Reg. 5911 (Jan. 22, 1993). President Clinton revoked EO 12834 effective January
20, 2001, and President George W. Bush did not issue a new executive order with an
ethics pledge. 66 Fed. Reg. 679 (Jan. 3, 2001).




Page 9                                                                GAO-19-249 Ethics
                          the pledge are contractually bound to adhere to its restrictions. If violated,
                          the restrictions in the pledge could only be enforced through civil actions.


Transparency and Ethics   To foster transparency, federal law permits members of the public to
                          access various government records. OGE provides online access to
                          certified copies of public financial disclosure reports for PAS and certain
                          other executive branch employees, as well as any applicable ethics
                          agreements, certification of compliance for the ethics agreement, and
                          certificates of divestiture for PAS. 16 OGE also provides online access to
                          copies of ethics pledge waivers for appointees at agencies. 17 Members of
                          the public can use this information to assist in holding government
                          officials accountable for carrying out their duties free from conflicts of
                          interest.


                          OPM, PPO, and two nongovernmental organizations provide some data
No Single Source of       on political appointees serving in the executive branch, but the data have
Data on Political         limitations that impede their usefulness. The Senate Homeland Security
                          and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Oversight and
Appointees Exists         Government Reform Committee publish OPM data on political appointees
That Is                   after each presidential election in the Plum Book. 18 Data include name,
                          title, type of appointment, salary, and location of employment. The data
Comprehensive,            reflect the positions and the individuals who are filling the positions at a
Timely, and Publicly      single point in time, about 5 months prior to the report’s publication. While
                          the data are comprehensive and publicly available, they are not timely.
Available                 Because the Plum Book is a snapshot in time, it does not reflect changes
                          that occur in between publications, such as changes to who is holding a
                          certain position, the position title, and vacancies.



                          16
                            Executive branch agencies or OGE can direct an employee to sell, or otherwise divest,
                          an asset to avoid a conflict of interest or the appearance of one. If selling the asset will
                          result in a capital gain, certain persons may be eligible for a certificate of divestiture to
                          postpone the tax burden of complying with the government’s conflict of interest
                          requirements. 5 C.F.R. § 2635.402(e).
                          17
                            Copies of ethics pledge waivers granted to Executive Office of the President and Office
                          of the Vice President employees are available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/disclosures/,
                          accessed Nov. 9, 2018.
                          18
                            The Plum Book is generally published in December after the presidential election and is
                          based on agency data reported to OPM as of the June prior to the election.




                          Page 10                                                                    GAO-19-249 Ethics
OPM also maintains more timely data on federal personnel; however,
these data are not comprehensive or publicly accessible for identifying
individuals serving in political appointee positions. OPM maintains data in
the Executive and Schedule C System and the Enterprise Human
Resources Integration (EHRI) system—the latter serves as OPM’s
primary repository for human capital data. 19 We found both systems have
limitations, several of which were also identified by OPM officials. 20 The
Executive and Schedule C System is not comprehensive. It includes data
on Schedule C and noncareer SES political appointees, but generally
does not include data on presidential appointees or PAS. Publicly
available EHRI data do not identify political appointees, either at the
individual or group level. In addition, the EHRI source data is not publicly
available. Political appointees can be identified from a combination of
multiple variables, but these combinations are not consistent within or
across appointee types. OPM provided some data on political appointees
serving in the executive branch as of June 2018 from the Executive and
Schedule C System. We reviewed the data and found errors and
omissions. For example, we found instances in which individuals
appeared to be holding political appointee positions that they departed
several months prior and individuals known to currently hold political
appointee positions were not identified. We also found that the data are
incomplete. For example, the data did not include information on political
appointee positions within the EOP. The EOP provides data to OPM only
every 4 years for inclusion in the Plum Book.

In addition to OPM, the White House maintains timely data on political
appointees that are likely more comprehensive than OPM’s data but are
not publicly available. Historically, PPO maintained data on political
appointees as part of its responsibilities to recruit, vet, and place political
appointees in positions across the government. PPO data on political
appointees have not been made publicly available by the Trump, Obama,
or Bush administrations. According to former officials from the Bush and
Obama administrations, PPO maintained and used data on political
appointees to carry out its responsibilities. For example, during the
Obama administration, PPO established a database to help with filling
political appointee positions and managing the overall appointee process.
19
  According to OPM officials, the accuracy and timeliness of information in the Executive
and Schedule C System and EHRI is largely based upon agency input.
20
  GAO, Federal Human Resources Data: OPM Should Improve the Availability and
Reliability of Payroll Data to Support Accountability and Workforce Analytics, GAO-17-127
(Washington, D.C.: Oct. 7, 2016).




Page 11                                                                 GAO-19-249 Ethics
The database included preliminary information on candidates, such as
names, application status, and where the applicant was in the vetting
process. After a position was filled, the database tracked information such
as the name of the appointee, position, federal department or agency,
and start and departure dates. The primary limitation of the data was that
departure dates of political appointees were unreliable. The former
Obama administration official attributed this limitation to the lack of a
process for agencies to formally notify PPO when an appointee left a
position. To address this gap, PPO met regularly with staff in federal
agencies to review data for accuracy.

There are requests by members of the public to obtain data on political
appointees serving in the executive branch. For example, between
January 2017 and November 2018, OPM received approximately 32
requests through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for data on
political appointments across federal agencies. According to OPM
officials, requests for data on political appointees are common and tend to
increase at the start of a new administration. Former PPO officials also
stated that when they served at PPO they received requests for data on
political appointees serving in the executive branch.

In the absence of comprehensive and timely data on political appointees
serving in the executive branch, two nongovernmental organizations—the
Partnership for Public Service and ProPublica—stated that they collect
and report some data themselves. 21 The Partnership for Public Service
primarily tracks and reports data on PAS appointments, which are
compiled from publicly available sources such as Congress.gov and
agency websites. According to the Partnership for Public Service,
accurately tracking departure dates is the most significant limitation.
Some PAS departures, such as cabinet level officials, are typically
reported in the media; however, lower-level PAS departures may not be
reported.

ProPublica collects and reports data on all types of political appointees
serving in the executive branch. To obtain and compile its data,
ProPublica makes FOIA requests to OPM and departments and agencies
across the executive branch for political appointee staffing lists.
ProPublica also makes requests for other data, such as financial

21
  The Partnership for Public Service is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to
improve government. ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces
investigative journalism.




Page 12                                                                  GAO-19-249 Ethics
disclosure forms through an administrative process required by the Ethics
in Government Act of 1978. ProPublica said it has had more than 166,000
unique visitors to its database since it launched in March 2018. According
to officials at ProPublica, one limitation is that they rely on agency
responses to FOIA requests and therefore the data may not be
comprehensive or timely.

The public has an interest in knowing who is serving in the government
and making policy decisions. The Office of Management and Budget
(OMB) stated that transparency promotes accountability by providing the
public with information about what the government is doing. In a 2009
memorandum, OMB directed agencies to make information available
online and to use modern technology to disseminate useful information,
rather than waiting for specific requests under FOIA. 22 Although some
data are publicly available on political appointees and FOIA requests can
be used to varying effect to obtain data on political appointees, neither
option results in comprehensive, timely, and publicly available data. Until
the names of political appointees and their position, position type, agency
or department name, start and end dates are publicly available at least
quarterly, it will be difficult for the public to access comprehensive and
reliable information.

Making such information available would promote transparency. The
public, including independent researchers, the media, and
nongovernmental organizations, can use these data to perform
independent analyses to identify gaps and challenges for filling political
appointee positions or to identify potential conflicts of interest. Such
analyses would also facilitate congressional oversight of executive branch
appointees by providing a comprehensive and timely source of
information on political appointees.

As of March 2019, no agency in the federal government was required to
publicly report comprehensive and timely data on political appointees
serving in the executive branch. As the leader of human resources and
personnel policy, OPM is positioned to collect, maintain, and make
political appointee data publicly available on a frequent and recurring
basis. However, OPM is limited in its ability to provide comprehensive
data, in part because it does not regularly receive data from each agency
that has political appointees, such as the EOP, which has approximately

22
 Office of Management and Budget Open Government Directive, M-10-06 (Dec. 8, 2009).




Page 13                                                          GAO-19-249 Ethics
                                225 political appointee positions based on the 2016 Plum Book. PPO is
                                positioned to make more comprehensive data on political appointees
                                publicly available. However, PPO is reestablished with each new
                                presidential administration, which could be a barrier to establishing a
                                consistent process for maintaining and publishing data on a recurring
                                basis. Ultimately, it is a policy decision as to which agency is best
                                positioned to report comprehensive and timely data on political
                                appointees.


                                All three agencies we reviewed—HHS, Interior, and SBA—generally used
SBA and Interior                appropriate internal controls to ensure they met basic ethics program
Ethics Programs Did             requirements, such as financial disclosure, though two of the agencies—
                                Interior and SBA—could do more to strengthen their ethics programs.
Not Meet All                    SBA and Interior had not fully documented some of their procedures for
Documentation                   ethics training and the ethics pledge, respectively. In implementing their
                                ethics programs, each agency addressed human capital issues and
Requirements and                workforce continuity challenges; however, we found that vacancies and
Interior and HHS Had            staff turnover had negative effects on Interior’s ethics program. For the
                                full results of our assessment of agencies’ internal controls, see appendix
Workforce Continuity            II.
Challenges
Reviewed Agencies
Generally Met Basic
Requirements for
Financial Disclosure and
Ethics Training, but Interior
and SBA Did Not
Document Some
Procedures


Financial Disclosure            All three agencies we reviewed met the minimum statutory and regulatory
                                requirement to have written procedures for financial disclosure. 23 Federal
                                23
                                  We did not conduct an independent evaluation of the content of each agency’s
                                procedures to determine whether they comply with relevant requirements. OGE evaluates
                                agencies’ written procedures for financial disclosure during its program reviews to ensure
                                that the agency procedures are in conformance with all relevant laws, regulations, and
                                executive orders.




                                Page 14                                                                 GAO-19-249 Ethics
                                                           law requires agencies to develop written procedures to collect, review,
                                                           and evaluate financial disclosure reports (see sidebar). 24

Financial Disclosure Requirements                          Each agency established financial disclosure processes in addition to
Agencies:                                                  what is required to reduce the risk of political appointees performing
•     Administer public and confidential                   agency work while they may have conflicts of interest. For example, prior
      financial disclosure systems.                        to an HHS political appointee’s first day, the HHS process requires the
•     Establish written procedures for                     appointee’s financial disclosure report to be submitted and reviewed, and
      collecting, reviewing, evaluating, and
      where applicable, making available to                any potential conflicts be either resolved or identified, and an ethics
      the public financial disclosure reports              agreement put in place with a timeline for conflict of interest resolution.
      filed by the agency’s employees.                     This process aims to ensure that appointees are in compliance with ethics
Political Appointees:
                                                           laws and regulations when they begin government service, rather than 30
•     File a new entrant public financial
      disclosure report within 30 days of
                                                           days or more into their appointment.
      assuming a public filing position.
•     If appointed to a position requiring                 HHS and SBA have additional processes that include written procedures
      Senate confirmation, file a nominee                  which reflect OGE’s guidance for reviewing reports, such as following up
      report within 5 days of transmittal of the
      President’s nomination to the Senate for             with appointees when a financial disclosure report appears incomplete.
      confirmation.                                        OGE officials told us that engaging with an appointee during the review
•     File a termination report within 30 days             process allows agencies to confirm that the appointee understands and
      of leaving office.
Source: GAO analysis of financial disclosure statues and
                                                           completes each required item. These interactions are also an opportunity
regulations. | GAO-19-249                                  to provide ethics counseling and establish a relationship with appointees
                                                           who may be new to government service. Interior instituted a process in
                                                           June 2018 that requires ethics officials to interview new appointees,
                                                           review their financial disclosure report, and complete a financial
                                                           disclosure checklist prior to certification.

                                                           In reviewing a nongeneralizable sample of political appointees at each of
                                                           the three agencies, we found that nearly all political appointees filed
                                                           financial disclosure reports on time, with four exceptions of non-PAS
                                                           appointees from our Interior and SBA samples (see table 1). 25 In one
                                                           case, an Interior appointee who was required to file both a new entrant
                                                           and termination report did not do so. According to Interior ethics officials,
                                                           the office mistakenly determined that the appointee was excluded from
                                                           public filing requirements. An individual who does not serve more than 60
                                                           days in a calendar year is not required to file a new entrant or a
                                                           termination financial disclosure report; however, this political appointee
                                                           served for 63 days.

                                                           24
                                                            5 U.S.C. App. § 402(d)(1); 5 C.F.R. § 2638.104(c)(8)(i).
                                                           25
                                                             For the complete results of our political appointee ethics requirement analysis, see
                                                           appendix III.




                                                           Page 15                                                                  GAO-19-249 Ethics
Table 1: Filing and Review Timeliness of Public Financial Disclosure Reports for a Nongeneralizable Sample of Political
Appointees Serving between January 20, 2017 and January 28, 2018

                                                                    Department of Health and                                                     Small Business
                                                                        Human Services                             Department of the Interior    Administration
                                                                       New entrant                                  New entrant            New entrant
 Type of report filed                                                  or nominee           Termination             or nominee Termination or nominee       Termination
 Number of political appointees required
 to file                                                                           10a                        3                     12      1         10                    1
                                                                                                                                        b   b
 Number of reports filed timely                                                     10                        3                   10        0          8                    1
 Number of reports filed 0-5 days late                                                0                       0                         1   0          2                    0
 Number of reports filed >5 days late                                                 0                       0                         0   0          0                    0
 Number of reports reviewed timely by
 agency ethics official                                                             10                        3                     10      0          9                    1
Source: GAO analysis of timeliness of public financial disclosure report filing (Office of Government Ethics Form 278e). | GAO-19-249

                                                                   Note: In general, individuals nominated by the President to positions requiring Senate confirmation
                                                                   must file a nominee financial disclosure report within 5 days of transmittal of the President’s
                                                                   nomination to the Senate for confirmation. Other appointees must file a new entrant report within 30
                                                                   days of assuming their position. In general, all appointees must file a termination report within 30
                                                                   days of leaving office. Reports must be reviewed by agency ethics officials within 60 days of receipt.
                                                                   26 C.F.R. §§ 2634.201(b), (c), (e); 2634.605(a).
                                                                   a
                                                                    Two of the political appointees in our HHS sample were incumbents from previous administrations.
                                                                   Due to records retention schedule, we were unable to evaluate the nominee financial disclosure
                                                                   reports filed by those two appointees.
                                                                   b
                                                                    One appointee at Interior did not file a new entrant or a termination financial disclosure report.
                                                                   According to Interior ethics officials, the office mistakenly determined that the appointee was excluded
                                                                   from public filing requirements.


                                                                   Three appointees—two from SBA and one from Interior—filed new
                                                                   entrant reports past their due dates. Late filing heightens the risk of
                                                                   appointees performing agency work while having conflicts of interest;
                                                                   however, none of the three appointees filed more than 30 days after the
                                                                   due date or the last day of an extension, and therefore were not subject to
                                                                   a late filing fee. 26 For example, one Interior appointee received a 30-day
                                                                   extension to file a new entrant report, but filed it 4 days late. One SBA
                                                                   appointee received an extension exceeding the maximum time—90
                                                                   days—that an agency may grant to any filer and consequently filed 2
                                                                   days late. 27 According to SBA ethics officials, the appointee was given a
                                                                   26
                                                                     Unless granted a waiver for “extraordinary circumstances,” an official who files any
                                                                   public financial disclosure report more than 30 days after the due date, or more than 30
                                                                   days after the last day of an extension, whichever occurs later, must pay the United States
                                                                   a $200 late filing fee. 5 U.S.C. App. § 104(d); 5 C.F.R. § 2634.704.
                                                                   27
                                                                     An agency may grant any filer an extension to file a financial disclosure report for “good
                                                                   cause shown,” provided such extensions do not exceed 90 days. 5 U.S.C. App. §
                                                                   101(g)(1); 5 C.F.R. § 2634.201(f).




                                                                   Page 16                                                                           GAO-19-249 Ethics
                  92-day extension because the due date was miscalculated. A second
                  SBA appointee filed a report 1 day past the due date. We did not find
                  timeliness issues with any reports filed by appointees at HHS or filed by
                  PAS appointees at Interior or SBA.

                  Agency ethics officials generally reviewed appointees’ financial disclosure
                  reports in a timely manner. However, agencies followed up with non-PAS
                  political appointees’ to varying degrees when their financial disclosure
                  reports were potentially missing information. For example, SBA followed
                  up with an appointee to confirm that the appointee had not inadvertently
                  omitted information, such as a retirement plan, from the financial
                  disclosure report because the appointee reported having previous long-
                  term employment. HHS asked for and received clarifying information from
                  an appointee who reported compensation for legal work but did not report
                  individual clients. However, Interior ethics officials told us they did not
                  follow up with two appointees in our sample who reported having no
                  previous outside employment. Interior officials acknowledged that the
                  reports were neither reviewed nor certified properly. According to
                  Interior’s new Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO), the June 2018
                  update to Interior’s review process was implemented in response to
                  deficiencies within its financial disclosure program.

Ethics Training   HHS and Interior had written procedures for initial ethics training as
                  required, but SBA did not until February 2019. Federal regulation requires
                  agencies to establish written procedures for providing initial ethics training
                  beginning in January 2017 (see sidebar). 28




                  28
                    On November 2, 2016, OGE published a final rule revising the elements and procedures
                  of the executive branch ethics program, including establishing the requirement for
                  agencies to develop written procedures for initial ethics training. These changes had an
                  effective date of January 1, 2017. 5 C.F.R. § 2638.304(f); 81 Fed. Reg. 76,271 (Nov. 2,
                  2016).




                  Page 17                                                               GAO-19-249 Ethics
Ethics Training Requirements                           HHS’s and Interior’s written procedures reflect the requirements of initial
Agencies:                                              ethics training. For example, both agencies’ procedures describe time
•     Carry out an ethics education program to         frames for providing initial ethics training to political appointees no later
      teach employees how to identify                  than 3 months after their appointment date, as well as the method for
      government ethics issues and obtain
      assistance in complying with ethics laws
                                                       doing so. Prior to February 2019, SBA did not have adequate written
      and regulations.                                 procedures in place to address the requirement that became effective in
•     Establish written procedures, which the          January 2017. SBA’s written procedures now reflect the requirements of
      DAEO must review each year, for                  initial ethics training. Now that SBA officials have formally documented
      providing initial ethics training.
Political Appointees:
                                                       procedures, they can have reasonable assurance that the procedures are
•     Complete initial ethics training within 3
                                                       implemented as intended and that all required appointees are provided
      months of appointment.                           initial ethics training. 29
•     If appointed to a position requiring
      Senate confirmation, complete an
      additional live ethics briefing on
                                                       Interior’s and HHS’s ethics programs track and maintain documentation of
      immediate ethics obligations within 15           dates that political appointees received initial ethics training. During the
      days.                                            time of our review, SBA did not adequately document political appointees’
Source: GAO analysis of ethics training statutes and
regulations. | GAO-19-249                              training dates. 30 For example, ethics officials at Interior manually record
                                                       training dates in a spreadsheet shared between Interior’s ethics office,
                                                       Office of Human Resources, and the White House Liaison. HHS requires
                                                       appointees to confirm in writing that they completed initial ethics training.
                                                       According to SBA ethics officials, the previous Alternate DAEO informally
                                                       documented the dates that political appointees received training in her
                                                       personal notes. Standards for internal control state that management
                                                       should document significant events, and that documentation and records
                                                       should be properly managed, maintained, and readily available for
                                                       examination. Allowing one individual to control all key aspects of
                                                       documenting an event puts the program at risk of errors. 31 As of February
                                                       2019, SBA officials had developed a tracking sheet and a certificate for
                                                       appointees to sign that indicates they completed initial ethics training. We
                                                       plan to assess the implementation of the tracking sheet to confirm that
                                                       SBA is using the tracker to hold appointees accountable by documenting
                                                       their completion of initial ethics training requirements. By developing and
                                                       implementing a mechanism, such as a tracking sheet, SBA can have

                                                       29
                                                         Standards for internal control state that management should document its control
                                                       policies and conduct periodic reviews to ensure controls are effective. See GAO-14-704G.
                                                       30
                                                         Political appointees are also required to complete annual ethics training before the end
                                                       of a given calendar year. Because the majority of appointees in our sample received initial
                                                       ethics training in 2017, they were not required to receive annual ethics training until the
                                                       end of calendar year 2018, which was outside the time frame of our review. Therefore, we
                                                       did not assess compliance with annual training requirements. For the full results of our
                                                       political appointee ethics documentation analysis, see appendix III.
                                                       31
                                                        GAO-14-704G.




                                                       Page 18                                                                 GAO-19-249 Ethics
reasonable assurance that political appointees meet the requirement to
take initial ethics training.

Our review of agency documentation, including SBA’s informal
documentation, found that political appointees completed required initial
ethics training on time. Also, all three agencies provided the required
additional live ethics briefing for PAS appointees together with initial
ethics training.

In addition to required training, all three agencies provided examples of
other ways they have reminded appointees about their personal ethical
responsibilities. For example:

•   In advance of the holiday season, Interior provided supplementary
    training to political appointees on restrictions on accepting gifts.
•   SBA used its agency-wide newsletter during the March Madness
    college basketball tournament to remind employees that they are
    prohibited from gambling in the workplace.
•   HHS updated its ethics website to highlight Hatch Act rules in
    preparation for upcoming elections. 32




32
  The Hatch Act limits certain political activities of federal employees, as well as some
state, D.C., and local government employees who work in connection with federally
funded programs. 5 U.S.C. §§ 1501–1508, 7321–7326.




Page 19                                                                   GAO-19-249 Ethics
Ethics Pledge                                       Political appointees we reviewed at each agency had signed the required
                                                    ethics pledge prescribed in Executive Order 13770, “Ethics Commitments
 Ethics Pledge Restrictions                         by Executive Branch Appointees.” However, nine Interior appointees’ and
 Political Appointees:                              one HHS appointee’s pledges were not timely signed. 33 For example, the
 •     President Trump issued Executive Order       former Secretary of the Interior signed the pledge 19 days after his
       13770, “Ethics Commitments by
       Executive Branch Appointees,” which          appointment. According to an Interior ethics official, the political
       requires political appointees to sign an     appointees were directed to sign the pledge at the start of their
       ethics pledge.
                                                    appointments, but did not do so. Interior’s new DAEO told us in October
 •     Under the pledge, appointees are
       contractually bound to adhere to             2018 that Interior now requires all appointees to sign the pledge on their
       specified restrictions, including (but not   first day as a condition of continuing their employment; however, this
       limited to):
                                                    procedure has not been formally documented. The non-PAS HHS
       •    for all appointees, a 2-year ban on
            involvement in “particular matters”
                                                    appointee signed the pledge 9 days after his permanent appointment
            involving former employers and          date. While the restrictions under the pledge are enforceable by civil
            clients;                                action, there are no legal consequences, such as fines or penalties, for
       •    for former lobbyists, a 2-year ban on   failing to timely sign the pledge.
            involvement on particular matters on
            which he or she lobbied; and
       •    for appointees who leave                The President or his designee may grant a waiver of any of the
            government service, a 5-year ban on     restrictions contained in the executive order. As of March 2019, 32
            lobbying agencies in which they
            served.                                 executive branch appointees—not including White House appointees—
 Source: GAO analysis of Executive Order 13770. |   received limited waivers of the pledge. 34 Interior’s then acting solicitor and
 GAO-19-249
                                                    principal deputy solicitor signed a limited waiver of certain restrictions on
                                                    lobbying activities for one appointee in our sample upon the appointee’s
                                                    departure from the agency in July 2017. 35 However, according to Interior
                                                    ethics officials, the official from the Solicitor’s Office did not have authority
                                                    to grant a waiver. Furthermore, Interior’s ethics office was not included in
                                                    the decision to grant the waiver, although Interior ethics officials ultimately
                                                    notified the appointee when they became aware that the waiver was
                                                    legally invalid. According to the DAEO, Interior is updating and
                                                    documenting its ethics program processes and procedures, including new
                                                    processes to sign ethics pledges and grant waivers, but did not provide a
                                                    33
                                                       OGE guidance states PAS appointees must sign ethics pledges between Senate
                                                    confirmation and beginning their appointment. Non-PAS appointees are required to sign
                                                    the pledge when they are appointed. According to OGE officials, ethics pledge signed by
                                                    non-PAS appointees within a few days of the appointment are generally still considered
                                                    timely signed. For the purpose of our analyses, we considered any pledge signed after the
                                                    first 3 days of a non-PAS appointee’s appointment to not be timely signed.
                                                    34
                                                      Copies of any waivers granted to White House appointees pursuant to Executive Order
                                                    13770 are available on the White House website:
                                                    https://www.whitehouse.gov/disclosures/.
                                                    35
                                                      Paragraph 3 of the ethics pledge states that political appointees will not engage in any
                                                    lobbying activities with respect to any covered executive branch official or noncareer
                                                    Senior Executive Service appointee for the remainder of the administration.




                                                    Page 20                                                                  GAO-19-249 Ethics
                            time frame for completion. We discuss Interior’s efforts to document
                            overall ethics program processes and procedures later in this report.


Reviewed Agencies’ Ethics   We found that all of the agencies we reviewed are addressing human
Programs Face Human         capital issues and workforce continuity challenges to varying extents to
                            achieve the goals and objectives of the ethics program. Standards for
Capital and Workforce
                            internal control state that management can help ensure operational
Continuity Challenges       success by having the right personnel for the job on board and
                            maintaining a continuity of needed skills and abilities. Standards for
                            internal control also state that management has a responsibility to obtain
                            the workforce necessary to achieve organizational goals. HHS and
                            Interior reported challenges to recruiting and retaining ethics staff with the
                            necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities. All of the reviewed agencies
                            reported varying levels of effort to address vacancies, skills gaps, and
                            succession planning.

                            HHS reported vacancies in its ethics program as well as challenges in
                            recruiting and hiring; however ethics program officials took actions to
                            mitigate negative effects of the vacancies. As of October 1, 2018, HHS’s
                            Ethics Division had six vacancies out of 32 full-time positions (a vacancy
                            rate of approximately 19 percent), including the Alternate DAEO position.
                            HHS officials told us that a senior attorney was assigned to assume the
                            duties of the Alternate DAEO position for six months in 2018. HHS ethics
                            officials told us that the 2017 government-wide hiring freeze and
                            workforce reduction plan affected their efforts to fill vacancies. 36 However,
                            ethics officials also told us that, as of October 1, 2018, four people had
                            tentatively accepted offers to fill vacancies. HHS ethics officials told us
                            that applicants for ethics attorneys and specialist positions generally do
                            not have a background in federal government ethics laws. As a result,
                            Ethics Division officials said that it must invest time and resources to train
                            new hires, who attend and review OGE trainings, participate in monthly
                            interagency ethics meetings, and take HHS-specific ethics training.



                            36
                              On January 23, 2017, the President issued a memorandum imposing a federal hiring
                            freeze to halt the growth of the federal workforce until a “long-term plan to reduce the size
                            of the federal government’s workforce” is put in place. The freeze prohibited agencies to
                            hire for vacant or new positions as of January 22, 2017, except in limited circumstances
                            such as military or public safety personnel. On April 12, 2017, OMB issued guidance on
                            implementing the hiring freeze as well as guidance for a government-wide reform plan that
                            included reducing the federal workforce.




                            Page 21                                                                   GAO-19-249 Ethics
HHS ethics officials told us that new ethics program hires are assigned
work from across the spectrum of ethics subject matter and trained one-
on-one by senior staff. To address staffing shortages and prepare for
potential attrition, the HHS ethics officials said they cross-train staff
members and assign back-up team members to support HHS’s operating
and staff divisions. In addition, to track potential staff attrition or
retirement, the ethics officials told us that the Ethics Division uses OPM’s
Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey data collected from HHS
employees. 37 However, the data only give the Ethics Division a general
sense of the number of personnel that are planning to leave or retire.
HHS Ethics Division officials said they use survey data because there is a
general sensitivity related to asking about retirement and delays in
planned retirements that could affect recruiting and hiring replacements.

Interior’s ethics office also reported vacancies and challenges in recruiting
and hiring that contributed to the issues in the ethics program. As of
November 2018, the Interior ethics office reported that out of 14 full-time
positions, four were vacant (a 29 percent vacancy rate). All vacancies
were ethics attorney positions. 38 Interior reported an ongoing
transformation of the department’s ethics program and officials said that
the vacancies resulted from prioritizing the staffing at individual bureaus—
such as the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service—instead
of the department-level ethics office, which is responsible for overseeing
the bureaus’ ethics programs and providing ethics services to employees
at the Office of the Secretary, the Office of the Solicitor, and to all of
Interior’s political appointees. Interior’s ethics officials said that the high
vacancy rate in their ethics office affected its ability to properly collect and
review financial disclosure forms—one of the main responsibilities of the
federal ethics program. According to Interior’s new DAEO, the office
received an influx of financial disclosure reports during the presidential
transition, but was unprepared to handle them. Furthermore, during 2017
one official was responsible for reviewing and certifying more than 300
public financial disclosure forms. The official was unable to balance

37
  The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey measures employees’ perceptions of whether,
and to what extent, conditions characteristic of successful organizations are present in
their agencies. The survey serves as a tool for employees to share their perceptions in
many critical areas including their work experiences, their agency, and leadership. The
results provide agency leaders insight into areas where improvements have been made,
as well as areas where improvements are needed.
38
  Interior ethics offices submitted and received approval to restructure its ethics program
in 2018. Previously, the program did not have a formal organizational chart.




Page 22                                                                  GAO-19-249 Ethics
proper and timely review of forms with other responsibilities that also
included reviewing and certifying more than 800 confidential disclosure
forms. In the Interior Inspector General’s 2018 report on Interior’s Major
Management Challenges, ethics staffing was identified as a limitation, as
staffing shortages could lead to delays in reviewing appointees’ financial
disclosure documentation. 39

While the single Interior official was experienced in reviewing financial
disclosure forms, Interior officials stated that there was not enough
management support, training, or resources provided to properly review
financial disclosure forms in 2017. According to the DAEO, a new
supervisory ethics official for financial disclosure forms was hired in
September 2018 as part of a proposed and ongoing organizational
restructuring of Interior’s ethics office. In addition, Interior posted a job
announcement for a second ethics attorney and now has two ethics
specialists for financial disclosures. The DAEO stated that the ethics
program also plans to increase the number of ethics officials that review
and certify financial disclosures, and has established new program goals,
such as improving ethics staff competencies for technical review of
financial disclosure reports.

Interior ethics officials also reported that the government-wide hiring
freeze affected their ability to hire staff and address ethics program staff
continuity. To build capacity within the ethics program and create a strong
ethical culture at the agency and bureau levels, the Acting Deputy
Secretary recommended in May 2017 that Interior develop a structure
and staffing plan to have a full-time ethics official for every 500
employees by fiscal year 2020. On October 26, 2018, Interior officials
stated that the ethics program was implementing the Acting Deputy
Secretary’s staffing plan. However, OGE benchmarking guidance states
that there is no “right” ratio for the number of ethics staff per employee,
and that agencies should determine their ratio based on certain aspects
of individual ethics programs, such as the scope of potential conflicts and
the complexity of financial disclosure reports.

Interior officials could not explain how the ratio was determined nor
provide a strategy for achieving the goal or evaluating whether the ratio is
meeting the needs of the department in the future. We have previously

39
  Inspector General’s Statement Summarizing the Major Management and Performance
Challenges Facing the U.S. Department of the Interior for Fiscal Year 2018. Report No.
2018-ER-041, November 2018.




Page 23                                                               GAO-19-249 Ethics
identified leading practices for human capital management; these
practices include that agencies should determine the workforce skills and
competencies needed to achieve current and future goals and objectives
as well as identify and develop strategies to address gaps. In addition,
agencies should continually assess and improve human capital planning
and investment, and assess the impact on accomplishing the mission.
Without having a better understanding of resource needs and
documenting how to properly allocate and determine needed resources,
Interior may not accurately estimate its needs and may not be best
positioned to assess and strengthen its ethics workforce to achieve
program goals and objectives.

Moreover, staff turnover at the Interior ethics office also reduced
institutional knowledge. For example, Interior’s ethics office could not
produce the documentation of the policies and procedures that support its
ethics program—an internal control requirement—such as documenting
and providing written responses to ethics queries and the tools used to
ensure short and long-term continuity of operations. However, the ethics
office previously provided documented evidence of some of these policies
and procedures in its response to OGE’s 2016 program review. Interior
ethics officials stated that the OGE response was produced prior to the
DAEO retiring and drafted by staff who no longer work at Interior.

Standards for Internal Control also require agencies to document key
processes and procedures to retain organizational knowledge and
mitigate the risk of having that knowledge limited to a few personnel, as
well as a means to communicate that knowledge as needed to external
parties, such as external auditors. Both HHS and SBA provided
documentation of ethics program policies and procedures while Interior
did not provide documentation. Since there was no formal documentation
of the ethics program’s policies and procedures, Interior ethics officials
stated that the ethics office will document them as part of its
organizational restructuring plans. As of March 2019, Interior officials had
not provided this documentation. For example, the ethics program is to
ensure that all ethics related advice, legal analyses, and conclusions are
documented. However, without Interior completing the documentation of
its policies and procedures and making them accessible to staff,
institutional knowledge may be lost, and there is greater risk of not
achieving the goals and objectives of the ethics program.

SBA did not report challenges to recruiting or staff continuity in part
because of the small size of the ethics program. SBA’s ethics program is
administered by three full-time officials and during our review, the DAEO


Page 24                                                      GAO-19-249 Ethics
              position was vacant for more than 3 months due to the retirement of the
              previous DAEO. However, the Alternate DAEO assumed the
              responsibility for managing the ethics program until a new DAEO was
              hired in August 2018. Ethics officials reported that the program could
              draw upon a pool of field attorneys previously designated to perform
              collateral ethics duties to temporarily address disruptions in staffing. To
              address continuity and succession, SBA ethics officials reported that a
              headquarters staff attorney was detailed to the ethics program to prepare
              for the possible retirement of its current Alternate DAEO.


              Strong ethics programs are critical to ensuring public trust in government
Conclusions   and the integrity of actions taken on the public’s behalf. The executive
              branch ethics program is a shared responsibility across government.
              Political appointees, in particular agency heads, have a personal
              responsibility to exercise leadership in ethics. Some data are available on
              political appointees serving in the Executive Branch but the data have
              limitations that impede their usefulness. To facilitate independent review
              and analysis related to political appointees, members of the public need
              access to information on who is serving in political appointee positions.
              Otherwise, they are limited in their ability to discern whether appointees
              are performing their duties free of conflict. Information on the political
              appointees serving in the executive branch at any point in time would also
              facilitate congressional oversight. Both OPM and PPO are positioned to
              report these data, but there are some benefits and drawbacks of each
              agency’s current capacity that will need to be considered. Ultimately, it is
              a policy decision as to which agency is best positioned to report
              comprehensive and timely data on political appointees.

              Further, a robust internal control system is critical for agency ethics
              programs to achieve their mission of preventing conflicts of interest on the
              part of their employees. Without effective internal controls, agency ethics
              programs cannot reasonably assure that they are mitigating the risk—or
              the appearance of—public servants making biased decisions when
              carrying out the governmental responsibilities entrusted to them. During
              the course of our review SBA took steps to establish written procedures
              for initial ethics training, but still needs to complete the implementation of
              procedures to track and verify that all political appointees meet ethics
              training requirements.

              As Interior continues to reorganize its ethics program, improved strategic
              workforce planning can help to accurately assess its needs, maintain
              continuity, and achieve program goals and objectives. Finally, ensuring


              Page 25                                                       GAO-19-249 Ethics
                      that Interior’s ethics processes and procedures are fully documented and
                      easily accessible to staff can help mitigate the risk of reduced institutional
                      knowledge, and can improve the ability to communicate with external
                      parties.


                      Congress should consider legislation requiring comprehensive and timely
Matter for            information on political appointees serving in the executive branch to be
Congressional         collected and made publicly accessible. (Matter for Consideration 1)
Consideration
                      We are making a total of three recommendations, including one to SBA,
Recommendations for   and two to Interior.
Executive Action
                      The Administrator of the Small Business Administration should implement
                      procedures to track and verify that required employees complete initial
                      ethics training and that completion of this training is documented.
                      (Recommendation 1)

                      The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Departmental Ethics Office,
                      in conjunction with the Chief Human Capital Officer, to develop,
                      document, and implement a strategic workforce planning process that
                      aligns with its ongoing departmental reorganization and that is tailored to
                      the specific needs of the ethics program. As part of this process, Interior
                      should monitor and assess the critical skills and competencies that its
                      ethics program needs presently and is projected to need in the future.
                      (Recommendation 2)

                      The Secretary of the Interior should ensure that the department’s ethics
                      program policies and procedures are documented and easily accessible
                      to program staff. (Recommendation 3)


                      We provided a draft of this report for comment to the Department of
Agency Comments       Justice (DOJ), the White House Counsel’s Office at the Executive Office
and Our Evaluation    of the President (EOP), the Department of Health and Human Services
                      (HHS), the Department of the Interior (Interior), the Inspector General of
                      the Department of the Interior (OIG), the Office of Government Ethics
                      (OGE), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Small
                      Business Administration (SBA).




                      Page 26                                                       GAO-19-249 Ethics
Interior, SBA, and OGE provided written comments, which are
reproduced in appendixes IV, V, and VI respectively. Interior officials
concurred with our recommendations and described steps they are taking
to begin addressing them.

In our draft report, we made two recommendations to SBA. Our first
recommendation was that SBA establish written procedures for initial
ethics training as required. SBA officials did not agree or disagree with
this recommendation, but during their review of the draft report, they
provided documentation to show that they had established written
procedures in line with our draft recommendation. As such, we revised
our final report to include the actions taken by SBA in February 2019 and
to delete our recommendation to establish written procedures for initial
ethics training.

With regard to our second draft recommendation to SBA, which remains
in our final report as our first recommendation, SBA again did not agree
or disagree with the recommendation. SBA officials provided
documentation to support that they have taken initial steps to address our
recommendation to implement procedures to track and verify completion
of initial ethics training by political appointees. We plan to assess the
implementation of these new procedures to confirm that, in operation,
these procedures meet the intent of our recommendation.

In addition to the written comments we received, SBA, HHS, OGE, and
OPM provided technical comments, which we incorporated as
appropriate.

DOJ and the Interior OIG had no comments on the draft report.

EOP did not respond to our request for comments.


As agreed with your offices, unless you publicly announce the contents of
this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 1 day from the
report date. At that time, we will send copies to the appropriate
congressional committees, the Acting Attorney General of DOJ, the White
House Counsel, the Secretary of HHS, the Acting Secretary of the
Interior, the Acting Inspector General at the Interior, the Director of OGE,
the Acting Director of OPM, the SBA Administrator, and other interested
parties. In addition, the report is available at no charge on the GAO
website at http://www.gao.gov.



Page 27                                                     GAO-19-249 Ethics
If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact
me at (202) 512-6806 or nguyentt@gao.gov. Contact points for our
Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on
the last page of this report. GAO staff who made key contributions to this
report are listed in appendix VII.




Tranchau (Kris) T. Nguyen
Acting Director
Strategic Issues




Page 28                                                    GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Methodology



Methodology

              Our objectives were to evaluate the extent to which (1) existing data
              identify political appointees serving in the executive branch at any point in
              time, and (2) selected agencies use appropriate internal controls to
              reasonably ensure that their ethics programs are designed and
              implemented to meet statutory and regulatory requirements.

              To evaluate the extent to which data identifying political appointees
              serving in the executive branch at any point in time exist, we first
              synthesized requirements for reporting and developed criteria for
              comprehensive and timely reporting. We reviewed relevant laws and
              standards, and the United States Government Policy and Supporting
              Positions (Plum Book). 1 We used the Office of Management and Budget’s
              Open Government Directive (M-10-06) memorandum to develop criteria
              for transparency and public availability.

              We interviewed officials from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
              to understand the extent to which data they collect on current political
              appointees are comprehensive, timely, and reportable. OPM provided
              data on the political appointees serving in the federal government
              between January 2017 and June 2018. We also requested and obtained
              information from OPM on the volume of Freedom of Information Act
              requests for data on political appointees to assess demand for this type of
              data. To further evaluate public demand for political appointee data, we
              interviewed two nongovernmental organizations that track political
              appointees in the executive branch, ProPublica, and the Partnership for
              Public Service. We gathered information on the public’s demand for
              information regarding political appointees, and the use and limitations of
              data. Both organizations provided statistics quantifying public demand,
              including number of unique visitors to their website and media
              impressions. Media impressions are any viewing of or interaction with a
              piece of content. We requested information or interviews with the Office of
              Presidential Personnel (PPO) and several White House Liaisons to
              understand how they track, maintain, and use data on political appointees
              serving in the executive branch. A senior leader at PPO and one White
              House Liaison acknowledged our request for an interview but deferred to
              the White House Counsel’s Office. As well, an ethics officer indicated they
              would be unable to facilitate the exchange of information with the White
              House Liaison Office in their agency. The White House Counsel’s Office

              1
               The Plum Book is published after each presidential election. It lists federal civil service
              leadership and support positions in the legislative and executive branches of the federal
              government that may be subject to noncompetitive appointment.




              Page 29                                                                    GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




did not acknowledge requests for information or interviews. We
interviewed former senior PPO officials from the two previous
administrations to understand how they tracked, maintained and used
data on political appointees.

To identify internal control processes and determine the extent to which
selected agencies use appropriate controls to ensure their ethics
programs are designed and implemented to meet statutory and regulatory
requirements, we first identified four case study agencies. We selected a
range of case study agencies based on the number and type of political
appointees as well as the strength of their ethics programs, as
determined by Office of Government Ethics (OGE) reviews. Using data
from the 2016 Plum Book, we identified the total number of political
appointee positions within each agency or department across the
following four categories: presidential appointees with Senate
confirmation (PAS), presidential appointees, noncareer members of the
Senior Executive Service, and Schedule C appointees. We selected the
Executive Office of the President (EOP) as a case study agency because
EOP has the largest number of presidential appointees, and because
OGE has not recently conducted a program review of EOP. According to
OGE, ethics program reviews are a primary means of conducting
systematic oversight of executive branch ethics programs. OGE
completed a review of each agency between January 2014 and January
2018. 2 Since the White House Counsel’s Office did not acknowledge
receipt of our notification letter we could not review EOP’s practices.

To allow for more comparability among case studies, we excluded
agencies and departments that did not have at least one PAS, and one
presidential appointee or noncareer member of the Senior Executive
Service. From the remaining list of departments and agencies, we
excluded those with nine or fewer total political appointee positions. We
divided the remaining agencies into two groups: large agencies with more
than 100 political appointees and small agencies with fewer than 100
political appointees. To ensure we observed a range of practices, we
selected a large agency with no recommendations in its most recent OGE
program review—the Department of Health and Human Services and an
agency with multiple unaddressed recommendations from its most recent
OGE program review—the Department of the Interior.


2
See https://oge.gov/web/oge.nsf/Program%20Review.




Page 30                                                   GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




To select our final case study, we used human resources data from
OPM’s FedScope tool to determine the number of employees at each
agency as of September 2017. We limited our selection to noncabinet
agencies with between 2,000 and 10,000 employees. Out of the four
remaining agencies, we randomly selected the Small Business
Administration.

To evaluate the extent to which the three reviewed agencies have and
use appropriate internal controls to reasonably ensure that the objectives
of their ethics programs are achieved, we reviewed selected principles
from Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government based on
our review, analysis and professional judgment as to which were relevant
to effectively execute an executive branch ethics program. Selected
internal control principles included:

•   3.01: Management should establish an organizational structure,
    assign responsibility, and delegate authority to achieve the entity’s
    objectives;
•   4.01: Management should demonstrate a commitment to recruit,
    develop, and retain competent individuals;
•   10.01: Management should design control activities to achieve
    objectives and respond to risks; and
•   14.01: Management should internally communicate the necessary
    quality information to achieve the entity’s objectives.
Reviewed agencies confirmed that these internal control principles were
relevant to effectively execute their ethics program. We provided each
agency with an identical set of questions based on the selected internal
control principles and components. We used agency responses to
questions and supporting documentation to evaluate whether agencies’
policies and processes to oversee ethics compliance for political
appointees were consistent with the internal control principles.

We used a nongeneralizable random sampling method to select political
appointees whose documentation we would review for compliance with
certain ethics requirements. Agencies provided data detailing the political
appointees within the agency at any point in time beginning January 20,
2017 and as of January 28, 2018. To assess the reliability of the data, we
asked each agency’s officials about how the data were obtained, where
the data came from, and what steps, if any, they each took to assure the
accuracy and completeness of the data. Officials at each agency
knowledgeable about their data provided responses. Based on those



Page 31                                                      GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




responses, we determined that the data were sufficiently reliable to
indicate each agency’s political appointees, with start and end dates, for
use in selecting a sample of appointees at each agency. Within each
agency, we used random sampling to identify up to three PAS appointees
and up to nine non-PAS appointees, including up to three appointees that
separated from the agency during the time frame above. Each case study
agency completed a data collection instrument that identified the
applicable ethics requirements for each selected appointee. 3 Each
agency provided documentation to communicate how those requirements
were met for each appointee. We reviewed the documentation to
determine whether agency internal controls were sufficient to ensure that
certain ethics program requirements were met. In addition, we conducted
interviews with agency ethics officials, as needed, to discuss
documentation provided. We also conducted several interviews with OGE
officials to inform how we developed the data collection instrument and
evaluate appointee compliance in alignment with OGE’s principles and
practices. Our review of political appointees’ documentation was limited to
testing the sufficiency of the agencies’ ethics program processes and
procedures. We did not review financial disclosure forms with the intent of
identifying conflicts of interest nor did we perform a conflict of interest
analysis. Also, because we used a nongeneralizable sample of political
appointees, results from the sample cannot be used to make inferences
about all the agencies’ political appointees.

We conducted this performance audit from October 2017 to February
2019 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to
obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for
our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe
that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings
and conclusions based on our audit objectives.




3
 Applicable ethics requirements included Executive Order 13370 and sections 2634.201-
2638.205, 2634.601, 2634.605, 2634.801-2634.805, 2638.304-2638.305, and 2638.308-
2638.309 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations.




Page 32                                                             GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix II: Use of Internal Controls in
                                                              Appendix II: Use of Internal Controls in
                                                              Reviewed Agencies’ Ethics Programs



Reviewed Agencies’ Ethics Programs

Table 2: Analysis of Internal Control Principles to Reviewed Agencies’ Ethics Programs

 Selected Internal Control Components                                                                                               Reviewed Agency
 and Principles                                                  Ethics Program Evaluative Questions                                     Results
 Control Environment                                                                                                               HHS      SBA   Interior
 Management should establish an                                  Has the agency established an organizational structure for its
 organizational structure, assign
 responsibility, and delegate authority to
                                                                 ethics program?
                                                                                                                                    ●        ●      ◐
 achieve the entity’s objectives.
 Management should demonstrate a
 commitment to recruit, develop, and retain
                                                                 Are agency ethics program staff evaluated?                         ●        ●      ◐
 competent individuals.                                          Are agency ethics program staff’s expectations developed and
                                                                 documented?
                                                                                                                                    ●        ●      ◐
                                                                 Does the agency commit resources to the ethics program?            ●        ●      ◐
                                                                 Does the agency recruit, develop, and train ethics program
                                                                 staff?
                                                                                                                                    ●        ●      ○
                                                                 Does the agency prepare alternate or contingency plans for
                                                                 ethics program staff attrition, succession, or other potential     ●        ●       ○
                                                                 disruptions to staff levels?
 Control Activities
 Management should design control activities Does the agency have goals and objectives for the ethics
 to achieve objectives and respond to risks. program?
                                                                                                                                    ●        ●      ●
                                                                 Are these goals and objectives documented?                         ●        ●      ●
                                                                 Does the agency have processes and procedures in place to
                                                                 support the goals and objectives of the ethics program?
                                                                                                                                    ●        ●      ◐
                                                                 Does the agency have processes and procedures in place to
                                                                 ensure political appointees who are not Presidential Appointees
                                                                 with Senate Confirmation do not undertake an activity that
                                                                                                                                    ●        ●      ◐
                                                                 represents an actual or apparent conflict of interest?
                                                                 Does the agency have processes and procedures in place to
                                                                 ensure that political appointees receive required training?
                                                                                                                                    ●        ◐      ●
 Information and Communication
 Management should internally communicate Does the agency communicate ethics program related
 the necessary quality information to achieve information to political appointees?                                                  ●        ●      ●
 the entity’s objectives.

Legend:   ● = Met; ◐ = Partially Met; ○ = Not Met
Source: GAO analysis of ethics program documentation. | GAO-19-249




                                                              Page 33                                                                    GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix III: Ethics Provisions Applicable to
                                                                  Appendix III: Ethics Provisions Applicable to
                                                                  Political Appointees and Results of Political
                                                                  Appointee Ethics Documentation Analysis


Political Appointees and Results of Political
Appointee Ethics Documentation Analysis
Table 3: Number of Sampled Political Appointees in Each Agency That Addressed Selected Ethics Requirements

                                                                                  Number of political appointees in each agency sample that the
                                                                                 requirement applied to, and the number that met the requirement
                                                                           Small Business               Department of Health and
                                                                                                                                         Department of the Interior
 Selected Ethics Requirements                                              Administration                   Human Services
                                                                      REQUIRED                    MET    REQUIRED                MET       REQUIRED                 MET
 Signed the Executive Order 13770, “Ethics                                          10             10             11               11                 12               12
 Pledge”
 Presidential Appointee with Senate                                                   2             2              1a                1                 3                3
 confirmation (PAS) nominee financial
 disclosure report filed no later than 5 days
 after nomination by the President
 PAS nominee signed an Ethics Agreement                                               2             2               3                3                 3                3
 to address identified conflicts of interest
 Non-PAS new entrant financial disclosure                                             8             6             10               10                  9               8d
 report filed within 30 days of assuming the
 duties of the position, or within extension of
 time for filing
 Completed initial ethics training within 3                                         10             10            11b               11                 12               12
 months of appointment
 Received live ethics briefing within 15 days                                         2             2              1c                1                 3                3
 of appointment (PAS only)
 Termination financial disclosure report filed                                        1             1               3                3                 1                0
 within 30 days of leaving government (if
 appointee departed from the agency)
Source: GAO analysis of ethics documentation for a sample of political appointees. | GAO-19-249

                                                                  Notes: We reviewed ethics documentation for a randomly selected nongeneralizable sample of 10
                                                                  political appointees in positions at SBA and 12 political appointees in positions at HHS and Interior in
                                                                  place between January 20, 2017 and January 28, 2018. To ensure we included certain types of
                                                                  political appointees in our review, we grouped the political appointees from each agency into three
                                                                  groups: individuals in presidentially appointed, Senate confirmed (PAS) positions, individuals who left
                                                                  the agency during the time frame of our review, and all remaining individuals. We randomly selected
                                                                  three, three, and six political appointees from each target group, respectively. At SBA, the total PAS
                                                                  appointees and total individuals who left the agency during our review time frame was less than the
                                                                  target. As a result, there were fewer appointees in our SBA sample compared to the other agencies.
                                                                  Because we used a nongeneralizable sample of political appointees, results from the sample cannot
                                                                  be used to make inferences about all of the agencies’ political appointees.
                                                                  a
                                                                   Two of the three PAS appointees in our HHS sample were incumbents from previous
                                                                  administrations. Due to records retention schedule, we were unable to evaluate the nominee reports
                                                                  filed by those two appointees.
                                                                  b
                                                                   As noted, two PAS appointees in our HHS sample were incumbent appointees. Due to records
                                                                  retention schedule we were unable to review documentation and assess whether one of the
                                                                  incumbent appointees received the training. However, HHS provided email documentation to support
                                                                  that the other incumbent appointee received initial ethics training.
                                                                  c
                                                                   The requirement for PAS appointees to receive an additional ethics briefing was not applicable at the
                                                                  time of appointment for two incumbent appointees from HHS.




                                                                  Page 34                                                                            GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix III: Ethics Provisions Applicable to
Political Appointees and Results of Political
Appointee Ethics Documentation Analysis




d
 One appointee at Interior did not file a new entrant or a termination financial disclosure report.
According to ethics officials at Interior, they mistakenly determined that the appointee was not
required to file because she did not serve in her position for more than 60 days. Based on our
analysis of the appointees’ appointment and departure dates, the appointee served for 63 days and
should have been required to file.




Page 35                                                                         GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix IV: Comments from the
                        Appendix IV: Comments from the Department
                        of the Interior



Department of the Interior




Now recommendation 2.




Now recommendation 3.




                        Page 36                                     GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix IV: Comments from the Department
of the Interior




Page 37                                     GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix V: Comments from the U.S. Small
             Appendix V: Comments from the U.S. Small
             Business Administration



Business Administration




             Page 38                                    GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix V: Comments from the U.S. Small
Business Administration




Page 39                                    GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix V: Comments from the U.S. Small
Business Administration




Page 40                                    GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix V: Comments from the U.S. Small
Business Administration




Page 41                                    GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix VI: Comments from the United
             Appendix VI: Comments from the United
             States Office of Government Ethics



States Office of Government Ethics




             Page 42                                 GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix VI: Comments from the United
States Office of Government Ethics




Page 43                                 GAO-19-249 Ethics
Appendix VII: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix VII: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  Tranchau (Kris) T. Nguyen, (202) 512-6806 or NguyenTT@gao.gov
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the above contact, Melissa Wolf and Carol Henn (Assistant
Staff             Directors), Erinn L. Sauer (Analyst-in-Charge), Caitlin Cusati, Ann
Acknowledgments   Czapiewski, Robert Gebhart, Travis Hill, James Lager, Brittaini Maul,
                  Steven Putansu, Mary Raneses, Andrew J. Stephens, and Mackenzie D.
                  Verniero made major contributions to this report.




(102344)
                  Page 44                                                   GAO-19-249 Ethics
                         The Government Accountability Office, the audit, evaluation, and investigative
GAO’s Mission            arm of Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional
                         responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability of the
                         federal government for the American people. GAO examines the use of public
                         funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides analyses,
                         recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed
                         oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO’s commitment to good government
                         is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability.

                         The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no cost is
Obtaining Copies of      through GAO’s website (https://www.gao.gov). Each weekday afternoon, GAO
GAO Reports and          posts on its website newly released reports, testimony, and correspondence. To
                         have GAO e-mail you a list of newly posted products, go to https://www.gao.gov
Testimony                and select “E-mail Updates.”

Order by Phone           The price of each GAO publication reflects GAO’s actual cost of production and
                         distribution and depends on the number of pages in the publication and whether
                         the publication is printed in color or black and white. Pricing and ordering
                         information is posted on GAO’s website, https://www.gao.gov/ordering.htm.
                         Place orders by calling (202) 512-6000, toll free (866) 801-7077, or
                         TDD (202) 512-2537.
                         Orders may be paid for using American Express, Discover Card, MasterCard,
                         Visa, check, or money order. Call for additional information.

                         Connect with GAO on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube.
Connect with GAO         Subscribe to our RSS Feeds or E-mail Updates. Listen to our Podcasts.
                         Visit GAO on the web at https://www.gao.gov.

                         Contact FraudNet:
To Report Fraud,
                         Website: https://www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm
Waste, and Abuse in
                         Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7700
Federal Programs
                         Orice Williams Brown, Managing Director, WilliamsO@gao.gov, (202) 512-4400,
Congressional            U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7125,
Relations                Washington, DC 20548

                         Chuck Young, Managing Director, youngc1@gao.gov, (202) 512-4800
Public Affairs           U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7149
                         Washington, DC 20548

                         James-Christian Blockwood, Managing Director, spel@gao.gov, (202) 512-4707
Strategic Planning and   U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7814,
External Liaison         Washington, DC 20548




                            Please Print on Recycled Paper.