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Oregon secretary of state’s audit urges ethics commission improvements

State of Oregon

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) – An audit released Wednesday by the Oregon Secretary of State’s Audits Division finds that the Oregon Government Ethics Commission and state ethics laws could be better leveraged to improve ethical culture and trust in government.

The audit, which looked at the structure of OGEC and the state laws that govern its work, found that Oregon’s ethics framework and OGEC operations are generally aligned with other states and with leading practices. However, the audit identified a number of areas where the commission could be strengthened and given more independence.

“The Oregon Government Ethics Commission, through its professional staff and board members provide oversight to ensure accountability in Oregon government at every level,” said Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. “This audit provides a roadmap for increasing confidence and trust in Oregon government by recommending steps that should be taken to build stronger independence and oversight.”

The audit makes 14 recommendations, which include statutory changes, as well as improvements to systems within the commission. Among the recommendations were to:

  • Require public employees to receive regular ethics training or require public employees to document their acknowledgement and understanding of the state’s ethics laws upon hiring and regularly thereafter;
  • Require school board members to file Statements of Economic Interest;
  • Continue to expand training options to provide more virtual and online trainings;
  • Consider utilizing social media and other avenues of communication to regularly inform the public of Commission decisions, how to file a complaint, advisory opinions, information related to Statements of Economic Interest, and lobbying disclosures;
  • Establish statutory protections for commissioners to prevent removal without just cause before a commissioner’s term has ended; and
  • Establish more specific limitations on commissioners’ political activities.

​​​​​​​The commission is already in the process of making positive steps toward implementing two of the recommendations included in the audit. Senate Bill 60 would expand the preliminary review period from 30 to 60 days and Senate Bill 63 would allow commissioners to serve more than one term.

​​​​Performance audits identify improvements an agency or program can make to better achieve its objectives and mission. These audits are conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that auditors plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for findings and conclusions based on audit objectives.

To view the full audit, click here.

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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