Conflicts of interest: Unresolved questions

Although government and industry are partners in their work, the two see conflict-of-interest rules quite differently. Even if there is agreement on a basic approach to regulating the conflicts, many questions linger.

Should personal conflicts be treated separately in regulation, or combined with organizational conflicts?
Traditionally, the conflicts of interest have been addressed separately, but Cheryl Howe, a procurement analyst representing the Health and Human Services Department, suggests a novel approach.
“Why should we not require the company to be responsible for its employees’ personal conflicts of interest?” Howe asks. “From the government’s point of view, the distinction between a company’s organizational conflict of interest and its employees’ personal conflicts of interest is inconsequential.”

However, other groups, including the Professional Services Council, recommend keeping them separate. Not every organizational conflict of interest involves a personal conflict, and vice versa, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president of the council.

Should there be special rules for on-site and off-site employees?
Transportation Department officials say yes. Joanie Newhart, senior contracting executive, and Rosalind Knapp, deputy general counsel at DOT, suggest guidelines specifically for on-site employees to deal with access to government information gathered that is “beyond the scope of the contract,” and to deal with “reliance on workplace contractors for noncontract matters.”

Other experts suggest the location of the employee is not a key factor.

How far should contractor disclosure rules go?
The DOT officials also recommend that as part of a strategy to reduce personal conflicts of interest, contractors should be required to adopt provisions in their ethics programs that address such issues as financial interests of spouses and employment of close friends and other family members.

However, too much disclosure can be unworkable and detrimental to privacy, driving contractors out of the market, according to the Information Technology Association of America.

“This is the sort of terrain that will be especially problematic,” said David Laufman, partner at Kelley Drye and Warren.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

Rising Stars

Meet 21 early-career leaders who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • SEC Chairman Jay Clayton

    SEC owns up to 2016 breach

    A key database of financial information was breached in 2016, possibly in support of insider trading, said the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DOD looks to get aggressive about cloud adoption

    Defense leaders and Congress are looking to encourage more aggressive cloud policies and prod reluctant agencies to embrace experimentation and risk-taking.

  • Shutterstock / Pictofigo

    The next big thing in IT procurement

    Steve Kelman talks to the agencies that have embraced tech demos in their acquisition efforts -- and urges others in government to give it a try.

  • broken lock

    DHS bans Kaspersky from federal systems

    The Department of Homeland Security banned the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab’s products from federal agencies in a new binding operational directive.

  • man planning layoffs

    USDA looks to cut CIOs as part of reorg

    The Department of Agriculture is looking to cut down on the number of agency CIOs in the name of efficiency and better communication across mission areas.

  • What's next for agency cyber efforts?

    Ninety days after the Trump administration's executive order, FCW sat down with agency cyber leaders to discuss what’s changing.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group