When we think of ethics in the finance office, our minds might jump to high-profile fraud, malfeasance, or mismanagement. The everyday ethical issues the finance office deals with, like vendor gifts or how employees record time, might seem small in comparison. These everyday issues are important, though. Consider the following:
- How these issues are handled sets the tone for ethical behavior in your local government.
- People who commit large ethical violations usually start with small ones.
- These everyday issues come up far more often than higher-profile problems. Taken together, their impact could be significant.
To help government finance offices better respond to everyday ethical concerns, GFOA developed policy templates for three areas of common concern:
Proper Recording of Staff Time
Vendor Relations and Gifts
Making Gifts with Public Funds
The policies were designed using findings from psychological research that suggested how we could optimize their effectiveness. In this article, we reviewed the design features of these policy templates. This will help you make the best use of the templates and help you develop your own policies for other topics.*
*Note: More recent research has called into question the effectiveness of the “sign up front” strategy described in the article and used in the policy templates. There is no evidence this strategy is harmful, but current research suggests it not helpful either.