This week, a public/private panel of government officials and private sector advisors released a plan to develop model language for a conflict-of-interest policy appropriate for federal contractors. The Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) said regulations governing federal contracts should include clear language prohibiting contractors from disclosing sensitive information and prohibiting them from using their positions to get a leg up on competitors.
In addition to existing laws prohibiting activities such as accepting bribes and kickbacks, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requires firms taking contracts worth more than $5 million to have an internal code of ethics. However, FAR doesn’t say what these internal ethics codes should spell out, leading to case-by-case definitions and interpretations.
Under the plan, the FAR governing council would create a model conflict-of-interest policy that would apply both to contractors that work with secret government information and to those that might run into valuable proprietary data about their competitors. The panel recommended that the model language not be binding on agencies but only advisory in nature.
ACUS was established by the 1964 Administrative Conference Act, but Congress defunded it in 1995. Reinstated in 2010 after a 14-year funding lapse, ACUS is a public-private partnership charged with advising federal agencies on sound administrative procedures. The 101-member assembly is made up of 61 government employees and 40 private sector members from administrative law firms and other companies with administrative expertise.