[Federal Register Volume 68, Number 123 (Thursday, June 26, 2003)]
[Notices]
[Pages 38043-38045]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 03-16172]


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OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS


Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request: Unmodified SF 278 
Executive Branch Personnel Public Financial Disclosure Report

AGENCY: Office of Government Ethics (OGE).

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: The Office of Government Ethics has submitted the Standard 
Form (SF) 278 for extension of approval for three years by Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The SF 
278 is henceforth to be accompanied by agency notification to filers of 
the adjustment of the gifts/travel reimbursements reporting thresholds 
and the revisions to the Privacy Act Statement. Both revisions will not 
be incorporated into the form itself at this time, since OGE

[[Page 38044]]

plans a more thorough revision of the form in the next year or two.

DATES: Comments by the agencies and the public on this proposal are 
invited and must be received by July 28, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be sent to Ms. Allison Eydt, Office of 
Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, 
725 17th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20503; Telephone: 202-395-7316; 
FAX 202-395-6974.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mary T. Donovan at the Office of 
Government Ethics; Telephone: 202-208-8000, ext. 1185; TDD: 202-208-
8025; FAX: 202-208-8037. A copy of a blank SF 278 and the rest of the 
OGE submission package to OMB may be obtained, without charge, by 
contacting Ms. Donovan. Also, a copy of a blank SF 278 is available 
through the Forms, Publications & Other Ethics Documents section of 
OGE's Web site at www.usoge.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Office of Government Ethics has 
submitted to OMB the unmodified Standard Form 278 Executive Branch 
Personnel Public Financial Disclosure Report (OMB control number 3209-
0001) for extension of OMB approval for three years under the Paperwork 
Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. chapter 35). The current paperwork 
approval for the SF 278 is scheduled to expire at the end of June 2003. 
Since, for now, no modification to this standard form is being 
proposed, OGE will not seek any General Services Administration (GSA) 
standard forms clearance for this extension.
    The Office of Government Ethics, as the supervising ethics office 
for the executive branch of the Federal Government under the Ethics in 
Government Act (the Ethics Act), is the sponsoring agency for the 
Standard Form 278. In accordance with section 102 of the Ethics Act, 5 
U.S.C. app. Sec.  102, and OGE's implementing financial disclosure 
regulations at 5 CFR part 2634, the SF 278 collects pertinent financial 
information from certain officers and high-level employees in the 
executive branch for conflicts of interest review and public 
disclosure. The financial information collected under the statute and 
regulations relate to: assets and income; transactions; gifts, 
reimbursements and travel expenses; liabilities; agreements or 
arrangements; outside positions; and compensation over $5,000 paid by a 
source--all subject to various reporting thresholds and exclusions.
    The Office of Government Ethics notes two changes (discussed below) 
affecting the content of SF 278s. The first change concerns the recent 
adjustments in the gifts/reimbursements reporting thresholds. The 
second change involves the routine uses as paraphrased in the Privacy 
Act Statement of the form that have been revised in 2003. See 68 FR 
2923-2929 (January 22, 2003) and 68 FR 3097-3109 (pt. II) (January 22, 
2003), as corrected at 68 FR 24744 (May 8, 2003). For now, OGE is 
proposing no revisions to the SF 278, but rather asks that executive 
branch departments and agencies inform SF 278 filers, through cover 
memorandum or otherwise, of these two changes when the existing March 
2000 edition of SF 278 report forms are provided for completion. In 
addition, information regarding these changes is being posted on OGE's 
Web site.
    Effective January 1, 2002, GSA raised ``minimal value'' under the 
Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, 5 U.S.C. 7342, to $285 or less for 
the three-year period 2002-2004. See 67 FR 56495-56496 (September 4, 
2002). As a result, OGE has advised agencies and revised its financial 
disclosure regulations to reflect the increase in the thresholds for SF 
278 reporting of gifts and travel reimbursements received from any one 
source to ``more than $285'' for the aggregation level for reporting 
and to ``$114 or less'' for the de minimis aggregation exception 
threshold. These Ethics Act reporting thresholds are tied to any 
adjustment in foreign gifts minimal value over $250 (see 5 U.S.C. app. 
Sec.  102(a)(2)(A) & (B)). See OGE's September 27, 2002 memorandum to 
designated agency ethics officials (DO-02-021) and 67 FR 61761-61762 
(October 2, 2002). Both the GSA and OGE rulemakings and OGE's 
memorandum are posted on the OGE Web site.
    In addition, OGE updated the OGE/GOVT-1 system of records notice 
(covering SF 278 Public Financial Disclosure Reports and other name-
retrieved ethics program records). As a result, the Privacy Act 
Statement, which includes paraphrases of the routine uses on page 11 of 
the instructions on the SF 278 is affected. A summary of the changes 
relevant to that SF 278 statement has been prepared for inclusion with 
the paperwork clearance submission to OMB. OGE will advise departments 
and agencies of the Privacy Act Statement changes without further 
paperwork clearance.
    During the 107th Congress, a bill (S. 1811) was introduced to amend 
the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. app.) to streamline the 
financial disclosure process for executive branch employees. Congress 
did not enact S. 1811. A new bill (S. 765), similar to S. 1811, has 
been introduced in the 108th Congress. If Congress enacts S. 765 or 
like legislation, the public financial disclosure requirements will 
change, and the SF 278 report form will have to be revised accordingly. 
At that time, OGE would seek paperwork renewal from OMB and standard 
form clearance from GSA for a revised SF 278.
    For now, OGE will continue to make the unmodified SF 278 available 
to departments and agencies and their reporting employees through the 
Forms, Publications & Other Ethics Documents section of OGE's Web site. 
This allows employees two different fillable options for preparing 
their report on a computer (in addition to a downloadable blank form), 
although a printout and manual signature of the form are still required 
unless specifically approved otherwise by OGE. The SF 278 form is also 
available for purchase by agencies from GSA Customer Supply Centers 
(see OGE's November 15, 2000 memorandum to designated agency ethics 
officials (DO-00-042)) and fillable versions are now posted on the 
forms library of GSA's own Web site at www.gsa.gov.
    The SF 278 is completed by candidates, nominees, new entrants, 
incumbents and terminees of certain high-level positions in the 
executive branch of the Federal Government. The Office of Government 
Ethics, along with the agencies concerned, conducts the review of the 
SF 278 reports of Presidential nominees subject to Senate confirmation. 
This group of nominee reports, together with those of terminees from 
such positions who may file after leaving the Government and private 
citizen candidates for President and Vice President, form the basis for 
OGE's paperwork estimates in this notice.
    In light of OGE's experience over the past three years (1999-2001), 
the estimate of the total number, on average, of such filers' SF 278 
forms expected to be filed annually at OGE by private citizens (as 
opposed to current Federal employees) is 449. (The 2002 figures are not 
yet available.) This estimated number is based on the forms processed 
at OGE by private citizen Presidential nominees to positions subject to 
Senate confirmation (and their private representatives--lawyers, 
accountants, brokers and bankers) and those who file termination 
reports from such positions after their Government service ends, as 
well as Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates who are private 
citizens. The OGE estimate covers the next three years, 2003-2005, 
including a significant increase in reports anticipated with the fall 
2004

[[Page 38045]]

Presidential election and following transition. The prior paperwork 
burden estimate was 260 forms per year. The estimated average amount of 
time to complete the report form, including review of the instructions 
and gathering of needed information, remains the same at three hours. 
Thus, the overall estimated annual public burden for the SF 278 for the 
private citizen/representative nominee, candidate and terminee report 
forms processed at the Office of Government Ethics is being adjusted to 
1,347 (from 780) hours.
    The Office of Government Ethics estimates, based on the agency 
ethics program questionnaire responses for 1999-2001 (the 2002 figures 
are not yet available), that some 21,200 SF 278 report forms are filed 
annually at departments and agencies throughout the executive branch. 
Most of those executive branch filers are current Federal employees at 
the time they file, but certain candidates for President and Vice 
President, nominees, new entrants and terminees complete the form 
either before or after their Government service. The percentage of 
private citizen filers branchwide is estimated at no more than 5% to 
10%, or some 1,060 to 2,120 per year at most.
    On January 7, 2003 OGE published its first round notice of the 
forthcoming request for paperwork clearance for the proposed unmodified 
SF 278. See 68 FR 782-783. The Office of Government Ethics did not 
receive any comments in response to that notice, though one individual 
requested a copy of the form.
    In this second notice, public comment is again invited on the 
proposed unmodified SF 278 as set forth in this notice, including 
specifically views on: the need for and practical utility of this 
proposed continued collection of information; the accuracy of OGE's 
burden estimate; the enhancement of quality, utility and clarity of the 
information collected; and the minimization of burden (including the 
use of information technology). The Office of Government Ethics, in 
consultation with OMB, will consider all comments received, which will 
become a matter of public record.

    Approved: June 20, 2003.
Amy L. Comstock,
Director, Office of Government Ethics.
[FR Doc. 03-16172 Filed 6-25-03; 8:45 am]
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