As public agencies prioritize their tasks for the year, they consider several things including their major ongoing projects, their mission statements and directives from the executive bodies that oversee them.  Unless they’ve experienced a major lapse of judgement in the prior 12 months, they probably aren’t thinking “How much focus should I put on integrity this year?  How much time and money should be allocated to integrity?”


In fact, people who aren’t investigators may think the concept that integrity can be improved with time and money sounds crazy.  But in reality, the integrity of an agency is dependent on more than the integrity of each individual employee.  Rooting out dishonesty requires that honest employees feel safe reporting malfeasance.  Fraud and abuse can be reduced when all employees understand that it will be noticed – and it won’t be tolerated.  While hiring honest employees is still the best way to maintain an honest agency, no hiring screening process is perfect.  When bad actors do make it into an agency, systems promoting integrity are often then only thing protecting an agency from a terrible reputation.

There’s clearly work to be done.  In the Office of Personnel Management’s Annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, only 62% of employees agreed that “I can disclose a suspected violation of any law, rule or regulation without fear of reprisal.”  Only 53% felt that “Arbitrary action, personal favoritism and coercion for partisan political purposes are not tolerated.”  Worst of all, only 52% of employees felt that “My organization’s senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity.”

Citizens certainly understand that if an agency has no integrity, it cannot be successful.  That’s why investigative agencies such as Inspectors’ General offices were created to root out fraud, waste and abuse.  And when agency executives prepare next year’s budget and primary goals, they should ask themselves, if half of their employees don’t believe the agency prioritizes integrity, how can they be seen as successful by the citizens they serve?  Integrity is due for a greater focus than ever before.

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