Ethics training for contractors could be a challenge

It makes sense to provide contractors with ethics training, but agencies may not have the resources to handle it, the Government Ethics Office tells the SARA panel.

The Office of Government Ethics largely agrees with the Acquisition Advisory Panel's recommendations to delineate and enforce ethical relationships between agencies and contractors, but the office raised some concerns about one proposal.

Written comments that OGE Director Robert Cusick filed Oct. 4 by e-mail call attention to the panel's recommendation that policy-makers should consider requiring contractor employees in a blended workforce to get the same annual ethics training that is mandatory for agency employees.

The recommendation does not specify who would prepare and deliver the training, Cusick wrote, but a transcript of the panel's Aug. 29 meeting suggests that agency ethics officials would have that duty.

"One issue that would need to be resolved is whether agency ethics offices have sufficient personnel and other resources to prepare, host or otherwise deliver and track the training of contractor employees," he wrote.

In addition, only some government employees get annual training, and the training may occur in person, online or through some other means. "Accordingly, there are not necessarily existing agency mechanisms that could easily be used to train contractor employees," he wrote.

Cusick suggested that the recommendation state that contractor employees should receive "some form of annual training" on government ethics, and the OGE should help implement that training.

Cusick also noted that the panel's recommendations regarding personal conflicts of interest and related training requires the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council to identify potential conflicts of interest and develop governmentwide policies to deal with them. Although it is not an authority on procurement, OGE should participate in that effort, too, Cusick wrote.

Otherwise, the office is pleased with the panel's recommendations and urges their adoption, he wrote.

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