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New Tool Aims to Make Government Financial Disclosures More Transparent

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The U.S. Office of Government Ethics is promoting a new electronic filing system that could make federal officials' spending disclosures and potential conflicts of interest more transparent to the public. 

Called "Integrity," OGE unveiled the online system in January, and 19 agencies currently use it, according to a program advisory OGE issued Monday. Integrity is available to executive branch agencies at no financial cost, and an OGE "rollout team" helps them implement it, the advisory said. OGE did not immediately respond to a request for more information from Nextgov.

Integrity can pre-populate forms with data from previous reports, and allows filers to include comments and endnotes, among other features. 

Integrity represents the agency's attempt to reduce conflicts of interest such as insider trading, as required by the 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, which ramped up financial disclosure requirements for some federal officials. 

"[O]bjectives for this project have been to increase the accuracy of public financial disclosure and to reduce the burden on filers," the advisory said. Electronic versions of the paper disclosure forms promote transparency "by being easier to read than the old [form]", it said later. 

OGE plans to require Senate-confirmed federal appointees to use Integrity to submit certain reports by January of 2016; it also plans to collect data on other agencies' use of Integrity, according to the advisory. 

The agency has not yet decided if other public financial disclosure reports must be filed through Integrity in 2016.

Agency ethics officials are required to describe their plans for collecting these financial disclosure reports by July 1. Groups intending to use their own existing electronic filing systems must submit a special request to do so, according to OGE. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the date by which agencies have to describe their plans for collecting disclosure reports. It is July 1, 2015. 

(Image via  / Shutterstock.com)

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