What general guidance on ethics does the FAR provide?
FAR 3.101-1 states:
Government business shall be conducted in a manner above reproach and, except as authorized by statute or regulation, with complete impartiality and with preferential treatment for none.
Transactions relating to the expenditure of public funds require the highest degree of public trust and an impeccable standard of conduct.
The general rule is to strictly avoid any conflict of interest or even the appearance of a conflict of interest in government contractor relationships.
What are other useful sources of ethical guidance?
The COR should refer any questions related to ethics or procurement integrity to his or her CO. Within the COR's agency, the Office of General Counsel for General Law, the Office of the Inspector General, and the personnel office can provide clarification of ethical issues. The Office of Government Ethics (usoge.gov), which is responsible for compiling and publishing standards of ethical conduct for all executive branch employees, is also a source of information and guidance.
What procurement integrity requirements apply to the COR?
Agencies are required by Executive Order 11222 of May 8, 1965, and 5 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 735 to prescribe "Standards of Conduct." These agency standards contain:
1. Agency-authorized exceptions to FAR 3.101-2 (see Question 48)
2. Disciplinary measures for persons violating the standards of conduct.
Requirements for employee financial disclosure and restrictions on private employment for former government employees can be found in the Office of Personnel Management regulations and specific agency regulations implementing Public Law 95-521, which amended 18 U.S.C. 207; CORs should be sure to check individual agency regulations.
Remember that public service necessitates trustworthiness. Each employee has a responsibility to the United States government and its citizens to adhere to the laws and principles set forth in the Constitution; laws and ethical principles must be upheld without concern for private gain.
What ethical concerns and issues of integrity are relevant to the COR's work?
The COR, as a representative of the government or liaison between the government and the contractor, needs to adhere to ethical principles in his or her conduct. It is in the best interest of the COR and the government for the COR to go beyond mere compliance. The COR should keep in mind that some ethical principles are backed by rules that, if violated, could lead to embarrassment at best; at worst, these violations could be grounds for criminal sanctions. The primary ethical concerns for a COR are:
Treating contractors impartially (see the reference to FAR 3.101-1 under Question 43)
Not accepting gratuities
Not discussing employment opportunities with contractors
Avoiding conflicts of interest
Safeguarding source selection or proprietary information.
What is the gratuities clause?
Nearly every contract above the simplified acquisition threshold (currently $150,000) includes at least a reference to the gratuities clause, FAR 52.203-3, as prescribed in FAR 3.202. This clause gives the government the right to terminate for default a contractor who offers or gives a gratuity (in the form of entertainment or a gift) to an officer, official, or employee of the government, intending to thereby obtain a contract or favorable treatment. Agency personnel are to report suspected violations of the gratuities clause to the CO or another designated official in accordance with agency procedures.