It’s okay to be immature if you’re a young sapling on your way to becoming a giant oak. But it’s not good when talking about an organization’s ethics program.
The U.S. Postal Service has a mature ethics program that could be further developed, our recent audit report determined. On a five-point scale, the areas we reviewed of the Postal Service’s ethics program fell between Level 3 and Level 5. Level 3 means the program is defined; Level 4 is considered mature; and Level 5 is world-class.
The USPS Ethics Office is responsible for overseeing compliance with the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (Ethics Act), which seeks to prevent conflicts of interest on the part of executive branch employees. The Postal Service Ethics Office’s mission is to familiarize employees with the ethics laws and regulations that apply to them.
We reviewed the Postal Service Ethics Program in three areas: 1) agency goals and metrics, 2) accountability and consistency, and 3) cause and prevention. We used a maturity model framework to demonstrate the value of approaching an organization’s ethical efforts in a comprehensive, integrated manner that actively contributes to the organization’s mission.
The Postal Service is especially strong in the areas of agency goals and objectives and accountability and consistency. It has policies and directives establishing employee responsibility and accountability and non-retaliation, as well as a process for responding to allegations. The Ethics Office also incorporates into its annual goals specific targets for the number of ethics training events and ways to use technology to improve efficiency.
We noted, however, the ethics program doesn’t focus specifically on cause and prevention, which, could help find the root causes of unethical conduct. This information would in turn help prevent further lapses. We recommended the Postal Service develop a more integrated and comprehensive ethics program using a cross-functional committee to create and provide an integrated approach. This type of broader approach would engage more groups across the organization and facilitate greater accountability and organizational consistency.
If you are a USPS employee, how much training in ethics have you received? How thorough would you say it’s been?