The Office of Government Ethics has said that “most agencies have followed reasonable procedures” in granting waivers from certain ethics requirements and “also appeared to have generally applied and articulated the correct legal standards in the waivers.”
It found that over a 12-month period agencies had granted a total of 69 such waivers to 41 individuals. Two of the laws restrict participation in matters in which a person has a financial stake or has a relationship that would raise questions of impartiality. Those restrictions can be waived, respectively, if the person’s financial interest is not so substantial as to be deemed likely to affect the integrity of the employee’s services to the government; and if the interest of the government in the employee’s participation outweighs the concern that a reasonable person may question the integrity of the agency’s programs and operations.
The other waivers involved restrictions imposed by the Obama and Trump administrations under ethics pledges for political appointees.
“The majority of the waivers and authorizations appeared to have been issued by an authorized official and were signed and dated. Moreover, the majority appeared to have been issued prior to the employee participating in a prohibited matter. This last point is particularly important as OGE has consistently held that waivers cannot be issued retroactively,” a report said.
OGE added that in some cases it “followed-up as necessary with agencies for additional information and when responses raised compliance concerns.”