Official Duty Activities With Outside Organizations
Official Duty Activities are those activities performed by an employee as part of, or an extension of, officially assigned duties and responsibilities with an outside organization. An employee may participate in such activities only with advance approval from their supervisor with concurrence from their Agency/Area Ethics Advisor by completion of form SEB-106, REQUEST FOR APPROVAL OF OFFICIAL DUTY ACTIVITY.
Basic Guidelines for Official Duty Activities With Outside Organizations
- Activities Related to Official Duties: Any official work performed
with an outside organization must also be consistent with the authority and
mission of USDA. There should be compelling agency policy for official duty
activities with outside organizations. Such activity should be avoided if
the outside organization engages in lobbying or otherwise takes public positions
on matters of significant controversy involving USDA. Such activity should
be limited where it is likely that the outside organization may become involved
in legal disputes or other actions that could subject it to liability.
- Compensation: An employee is compensated by the Federal government
for performing his/her official duties. Therefore, an employee may not accept
any form of compensation from an outside organization or source for performing
his/her official duties. This does not include travel or per diem expenses
which may be accepted by the agency; allowable with prior approval through
the sponsored travel process (REE P&P 341.2, Acceptance of Travel Funds
from Non-Federal Sources). Under appropriate circumstances, acceptance of
monetary awards may be permissible (REE P&P 468.5, Acceptance of Non-Federal
Awards and Recognition).
Please note: due to NIFA administration of federal assistance to various State Partners, if approved, acceptance of travel funds will be limited to acceptance of travel from foreign sources only.
- Official Time: An employee who performs his/her officially assigned
duties and responsibilities with outside organizations is working on official
time and therefore he/she is not required to take annual leave or leave without
- Use of Government Resources: An employee may use Government equipment,
supplies, services, and staff to carry out his/her officially assigned duties
with outside organizations.
- Use of Agency Space: An employee may use USDA space and facilities
when needed to accomplish official duty work with an outside organization.
Meeting rooms and other space must be requested in the same manner as for
any internal USDA agency function.
- Use of Official Titles: Outside organizations may use the official
titles of an employee as a reference, identifier, or to promote attendance
at public meetings or presentations, when the employee is participating in
an official capacity.
- Official Duty and Outside Activities with the Same Organization: An
employee usually may not engage in official duty activities while, at the
same time, engaging in outside activities with the same organization.
- Participation in the Business Affairs of Outside Organizations: An
employee performing an official duty activity may not participate
in making decisions or taking actions that affect the internal business affairs
of the organization, including:
- personnel actions regarding the staff of the organization
and/or establishing their compensation and benefits;
- the financial management of the organization, including
sources and disposition of the income of the organization,
management of investment portfolios, or other related
- fund-raising activities.
- personnel actions regarding the staff of the organization and/or establishing their compensation and benefits;
Types of Official Duty Activities
The following activities are examples of acceptable official duty activities within USDA:
Service on Technical/Scientific Advisory or Editorial Review Boards: An employee may serve without compensation on technical/scientific advisory and editorial review boards with outside organizations to render advice on technical/scientific or educational matters. For advisory board service, an employee's participation must involve only providing advice and/or making non-binding recommendations. If the advisory board actually makes binding decisions on whether policy will be implemented, then membership on the board must be performed as an outside activity.
This activity may also be performed as a Federal Liaison. An employee may perform peer review, select articles for final publication, and determine which peer reviewers are appropriate. If participation entails management activities, then the employee must serve in a personal capacity (i.e., approved outside activity).
Writing and Editing: An employee may write books, chapters, forewords, articles, or edit articles and journals in his or her area of professional or scientific expertise for outside organizations without compensation.
Speaking and Lecturing: An employee may give uncompensated speeches or lectures at meetings, seminars, and other gatherings open to the public. The topics may come from the employee's general scientific or professional expertise or past or present work within a USDA agency. With appropriate impact on USDA's mission and approval, some uncompensated lecturing may be performed as an official duty activity.
Service as Members of Boards of Directors: Based on rulings by the Department
of Justice and the Office of Government Ethics, employees incur a fiduciary
responsibility when they serve as a member of a Board of Directors for an outside
organization or professional association as part of his/her official duties.
This presents a conflict of interest, and as such, it prohibits a federal employee
from serving in an official capacity as an officer, director, board member,
or trustee of an outside organization unless the employee fits one of the following:
- Serves in the capacity of a non-voting, Federal liaison to the organization's
Board of Directors.
- As a Federal liaison, the employee would be the official USDA agency representative
to the organization, and would present and receive information and views
on behalf of USDA.
- The employee would not serve as an officer or director of the outside organization.
The employee could also coordinate joint activities of USDA and the outside
organization. As Federal liaison, the employee may not be concerned or involved
with the internal business affairs of the organization. The liaison's only
duty is to USDA.
- Receives a waiver under 18 U.S.C. Section 208 (b). An employee might receive
a waiver upon a written determination that the conflicting financial interest
is not so substantial as to be deemed likely to affect the integrity of the
services which the Government may expect of the employee.
- Serves in this role in their personal capacity on his/her own time as an approved outside activity.
Federal Liaison Activities
For some activities with outside organizations, it is important that an employee formally represent the interests of USDA. When an employee is asked to serve as a spokesperson for USDA policies or programs with an outside organization, he/she is designated as a Federal liaison to the organization.
- A Federal liaison must serve as a non-voting, non-fiduciary agency representative
to the outside organization.
- An employee serving in this capacity must not participate in the internal
or business affairs, or fund-raising activities of the outside organization.
- For all other purposes, the employee is subject to the same provisions
that apply to USDA agency employees engaged in official duty activities.
- An employee may participate as a Federal liaison on Government time, use
Government equipment and services, and travel on Government travel orders.
- As a Federal liaison, an employee may serve as a liaison to a technical/scientific advisory or review board.
This information is to be used as a general guide, contact your Agency/Area Ethics Advisor for specific information.