USDA spreads wealth of online forms
- By Judi Hasson
- Oct 30, 2000
The Office of Government Ethics' financial disclosure section
The Agriculture Department has been given the go-ahead to share its online
financial disclosure form with other agencies.
The federal Office of Government Ethics said agencies can use the online
form developed by USDA, enabling thousands of high-level federal workers
to make their annual financial disclosure reports via the Internet.
"We're ready to go with it," John Surina, who heads USDA's government
ethics office, said Monday. "The technology is there."
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has begun using the USDA form, and
other agencies are expected to follow shortly, Surina said.
The online form won't completely turn financial disclosure reporting
into a paperless system. Although it is filed over the Internet, federal
workers still must print out a version, sign it and return it to the ethics
office by mail.
Nevertheless, USDA's online form will make annual financial disclosure
filing simpler because an employee will be able to call up the form from
a secure database and simply make changes without having to complete a new
The Office of Government Ethics reviews the financial disclosure forms
of executive branch employees to make sure there is no conflict of interest
involving their work and their personal finances.
The ethics office also has a form available online, but users must first
download a software program before filling it out.
"You have to know it's there," Surina said.
Surina said it cost USDA $75,000 to develop the system, and it will be free
to other agencies to adopt.
In January, President Clinton signed the Presidential Transition Act
of 2000 that authorizes a study on how to improve the financial disclosure
process for top federal employees. Surina said that action is expected to
speed up the paperless route for financial disclosure forms in the next