This document provides background information on the revised ethics training requirements and policy regarding implementation at the NIH.
On March 12, 1997, the Office of Government (OGE) published an Interim Rule regarding changes in the annual ethics training requirements, with an effective date of June 10, 1997, except for the provision for SF-278 filers which became effective on January 1, 1998. This information was distributed to the NIH via DAEOGram 97-013 dated March 20, 1997. The following items outline the new definitions and requirements.
- Annual ethics training has been renamed "briefing," with two types: verbal and written.
- "Verbal" briefing includes the following: an in-person presentation by the trainer; a presentation or videotape via teleconferencing; computer-based training; or other recorded means.
- "Written" briefing includes distribution of written materials. Written briefings may contain a summary of the ethics principles, a copy of the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, handouts prepared by the Office of the General Counsel/Ethics Division (OGC/ED), or other materials prepared by the ICs and approved by the OGC/ED.
- SF-278 filers must receive annual verbal briefings at least 1 hour long, and, beginning in 1998, a qualified instructor must be present or available during and immediately after the briefing. "Present or available" means that the qualified instructor must either be personally present during the briefing or immediately available via telephone or computer "chat room." It excludes sending e-mails, faxes, or leaving messages and waiting for a response.
- A qualified instructor is a person who has sufficient training, experience, and expertise in the ethics field to be able to answer questions correctly.
- OGE-450 filers and others identified by their Deputy Ethics Counselors (DEC) must receive a verbal briefing every third year. In the two intervening years, they need only a written briefing, with no minimum time requirement.
- Beginning with the 1998 reporting, OGE will require agencies to provide detailed statistics on the numbers of employees trained through the various allowable methods outlined above (verbal, written, 278 filers, 450 filers, other, e.g., OGE annual report).
NIH Policy for Implementation
- Each IC will be responsible for implementing the new requirements regarding the 3-year cycle for other than SF-278 filers, using one of the following options.
- Provide the same verbal briefing for all employees every year (omit use of the written briefing).
- Provide verbal briefing as required to SF-278 filers every year, and to OGE-450 filers and other employees identified by the DEC every third year. During the intervening two years for other than the SF-278 filers, provide a written briefing, thus keeping the verbal briefing cycle for the non-SF-278 filer all in one year. The verbal briefing during the third year may be provided to all employees together or the SF-278 and others may receive the verbal briefing separately.
- Provide verbal briefing to all SF-278 filers every year. For the OGE-450 filers and other identified employees, each year provide verbal briefing to one-third of this group, and written briefing to the remaining two-thirds of this group, thus staggering the OGE-450 and other employee verbal briefings.
- For options b and c above, new filers of the Confidential Financial Disclosure report who have not previously been receiving ethics briefings must receive the verbal briefing during the first year they are filers. Likewise, other non-filer employees identified as recipients of the ethics briefing must receive the verbal briefing during the first year that they are identified to receive the briefing. Thus, new OGE-450 filers and other non-filer employees will receive more training during the first year of their requirement.
- ICs will track the number of employees who receive each type of training and will report the numbers on the annual Agency Ethics Questionnaire distributed each fall.
- IC Ethics Coordinators are considered "Qualified Instructors" if they attend the annual HHS DEC Workshop or other appropriate training so they are knowledgeable enough to answer questions. Deputy Ethics Counselors have the authority to determine whether their Ethics Coordinators are sufficiently knowledgeable to meet the definition of "qualified instructor."
Prepared by NIH Ethics Office/OD; Approved by OGC/ED, 3/16/98; Approved by S. Benowitz, OHRM/OD/NIH, 4/2/98
For additional information, contact your IC's Deputy Ethics Counselor or Ethics Coordinator.