Ethics from the IG Perspective

    Section 7(a) of the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, authorizes Inspectors General (IGs) to receive and investigate complaints from an employee concerning alleged violations of law, rules or regulations; or mismanagement, gross waste of funds, or abuse of authority. SECNAVINST 5370.5B governs the Department of Navy (DON) Hotline Program which allows IGs to “receive allegations of fraud, waste, and mismanagement when the chain of command has been unresponsive, or the complainant fears reprisal resulting from the submission of his or her allegations.”

    IGs provide a confidential avenue for individuals to report allegations of wrongdoing pertaining to programs, personnel, and operations that fall under the purview of the DON pursuant to the Inspector General Act of 1978. Types of complaints IGs receive include: time and attendance abuse, misuse of government property, misuse of government resources, procurement fraud, hostile work environment, etc.

    What can IGs do to help shape a culture of ethical behavior? IGs should be on the front lines of integrity and ethical behavior and decision making, not allowing a perception of compromise. IGs can provide awareness of reporting avenues (chain of command, the command’s IG, Navy IG, or DODIG) to encourage those who ‘see something, to say something,’ and uphold the IG standards when conducting investigations.

    Ethical behavior is not bound by whether you are military, civilian, or contractor, or by your functional area of expertise. Ethics is not a legal issue or an IG issue; ethics matter—it is everyone’s business. Each of us is accountable, from the top down. Fraud, waste, and abuse are not ethical behavior. No program within the federal government is immune, so we need to ensure there are internal controls in place to minimize fraud, waste, and abuse. For some, doing what is right, fair, and good is not always intuitive. Ethics transgressions involving misconduct erode the public’s confidence in the government’s integrity.

    In his commencement address to The Citadel in May 1993, President Ronald Reagan conveyed his thoughts on the role character plays when people are faced with making crucial decisions: “The character that takes command in moments of crucial choices has already been determined. It has been determined by a thousand other choices made earlier in seemingly unimportant moments. It has been determined by all the little choices of years past—by all those times when the voice of conscience was at war with the voice of temptation—whispering the lie that it really doesn’t matter. It has been determined by all the day-to-day decisions made when life seemed easy and crises seemed far away—the decisions that, piece by piece, bit by bit, developed habits of discipline—or of laziness, habits of self-sacrifice—or of self-indulgence, habits of duty and honor and integrity—or dishonor and shame.”

    Doing what is right—ethical behavior—must be a priority. Upholding the public trust and preserving integrity in the Navy is dependent on each one of us. The public expects us to do the right thing every day as we carry out our mission and adhere to the Principles of Ethical Conduct (Executive Order 12731) as shown in the graphic above.

    It is incumbent upon each of us to help shape a culture of ethical behavior where doing what is right is expected and is reflected in our day-to-day decisions. Ethical behavior extends beyond asking, “Can I do this?” to “Should I do this?”’ Leading by example, holding all accountable, and recognizing ethical behavior sends a message that unethical behavior will not be tolerated and encourages employees to speak up without fear of retaliation. In an environment where expectations are clear and leaders “walk the talk,” peer pressure can be an effective deterrent to unethical conduct.

By Sue Lingo, former Naval Supply Systems Command IG