The Ethics web site aims to enhance general compliance with all aspects of the governmental ethics rules by making it more convenient to learn the rules of the road and to comply with the law's financial disclosure requirements.
The rules are not always as commonsensical as one would expect or hope. Civil Servants are an ethical lot to start with, but problems still arise out of simple ignorance. We in the ethics staff have an obligation to extend training to you and to field your questions. In like fashion, you need to be attentive to the training and always ask when in doubt on an ethics issue.
The World Wide Web affords both of us with a more convenient way, and a more engaging way, to address general ethics training and to respond to recurring ethics questions.
On the home page, you will note that the first button points you to the laws and regulations that speak to the Executive Branch-wide Standards of Conduct, the Conflict of Interest Statutes, and the Hatch Act governing political activity these formal documents can be pretty dull reading; but its nice to have them only a keystroke away when you need them. To address the more common issues, we also have posted some frequently asked questions (FAQs) at the fifth button, with plain-spoken answers that are a little less sleep inducing. Better yet, we have also included several topical computer based training modules (CBTs) and more will follow in the months to come. We hope you find these both engaging and informative You can get training credit for playing these modules by completing the on-line notification form that concludes each CBT. Finally, we have listed the name, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of each mission area's ethics advisor in case the rules, FAQs and training modules don't satisfy a specific question you may have. You can e-mail your advisor directly from the ethics advisor locator page.
At last count, over 17,500 USDA employees had to file some manner of financial disclosure report. Most fill out a pre-printed form by hand not many of us have typewriters nowadays. The computer permits you to enter only the changes in your report from the prior year. As noted below under "Breaking News", we have introduced on-line, web-based reporting for the year 2000 reporting cycle. We are hopeful that true electronic filing is just around the corner.
The fifth button on the home page directs you to a sub-page which has public and confidential report forms ready for downloading and completing on your office or home desktop personal computer. What you will find there is straightforward, fill-in-the blank versions of the forms in three popular spreadsheet formats (Microsoft Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, and Quattro-Pro). We figure most of you will have one of these programs on your suite of software and we've programmed the forms on early versions of these spreadsheets to get around the upward compatibility problem.
These spreadsheet programs are also compatible with commonplace ink-jet and laser printers. Here also, we must thank the work performed by another agency (in this case, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) which put us on to the spreadsheet approach and gave us one version which we then adapted to a couple more.
If you don't have a spreadsheet program, we have provided a fillable Adobe Acrobat PDF. You can fill in the blanks and print out the completed form, but, unfortunately, you cannot store, retrieve and subsequently update a PDF file... yet.
Breaking News - Web-Based Reporting Introduced
When we launched the ethics web site in 1999, we included only downloadable formats (spreadsheets and PDF), but committed to providing you with a true web-based reporting system, with which you could complete your disclosure report on-line, store it on the secure databases of the National Finance Center, and call it up for updating at any time. Well, we're there * * whew * *. Check out our Forms Page to see how to register for this truly cool way of meeting your reporting obligation for the year 2000 cycle.
We have some ambitious plans to expand this site to serve you and your agency ethics advisors better. While we are in the design and development phase, we would appreciate any suggestions and comments you may have by e-mailing our webmaster.