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Whynot

Is this a conflict of interest

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I don't think the HUP is an analogous situation - one argument that could be made is that the Government has an interest in its employees having office software access at home (for example, when teleworking) which is why HUP is included as part of the license agreement. I think comparing the HUP to the original scenario and Mettec's proposed solution is only muddying the waters.

I also don't think there are any further arguments for me to make on this issue - if I haven't convinced you or Mettec yet, I doubt I will.

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1 hour ago, Jason Lent said:

To the issue in the OP and Mettec's solution, asking for the Government-wide discount from a contractor does not constitute soliciting a gift in accordance with 5 CFR 2635.203 and thus any ethical concern is barely, if at all, present.

No ethical concerns in FAR Part 3 (see 3.101-2)?

Free-will discounts and solicited discounts (from prohibited sources) are not interchangeable terms, but it seems the act of soliciting the discount is being forgotten. I may agree with some of what you said, if the scope of your comments is limited to a company offering a discount as a general business policy -- not if a company has or is seeking to obtain Government business with the employee’s agency; conducts activities that are regulated by the employee’s agency; or has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee’s official duties.

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On 11/10/2016 at 11:33 AM, Whynot said:

I just heard something that sounded a bit strange. I don’t have any more information. This is what I think I heard:

Because their agency has a contract with the prime contractor, the prime contractor is separately offering to the individuals of that agency that are using their service, a special discount of the contractor’s other personal consumer services for the individual’s private personal commercial use.

Is there a conflict of interest? I think it is OK so long as information is not being used inappropriately by the prime contractor to target these individuals. This also reminds me a little about individuals being able to keep their frequent flyer miles when they travel for the agency.

Whynot, are you familiar with the specifics to be able to define the context of "agency" here?  Is it an office or other limited organization or is it an entire "agency", e.g., the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Army, USAF, etc. Thanks. 

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Regarding the ethics rules we civil servants follow, I was surprised to find out that it does not apply to the commander in chief, as this Fortune piece informs. 

Dismayed.

http://fortune.com/2016/11/15/donald-trump-conflicts-interest-ethics/

For decades, each time a public official gets caught with 'hand in cookie jar' violation, we lowly civil servants get refresher ethics training. 

And I never had a problem with it.

But, c'mon...............

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I have followed this thread with great interest and have concluded that the few references in the thread to ethics official referral is the only option as well noting that 5 CFR 2635.102 provides that only the agency designee has the authority to make a determination or otherwise answer the OPs question.

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On 11/10/2016 at 9:33 AM, Whynot said:

Because their agency has a contract with the prime contractor, the prime contractor is separately offering to the individuals of that agency that are using their service, a special discount of the contractor’s other personal consumer services for the individual’s private personal commercial use.

Is there a conflict of interest?

 

On 11/14/2016 at 1:23 PM, metteec said:

I would ask the Contractor to offer that same discount to all Federal Government employees.  If they agree, then an ethics issue does not exist.  

What follows is written in the context of the above quotes.

Companies discount their prices in order to attract buyers. Discounts are marketing ploys (and, sometimes, illusions). If properly done, discounts are a permissible form of price discrimination.

Discounts to military personnel are viewed favorably by the public and can actually attract buyers who don't get the discount, because they like the company's policy. The public views the military as making sacrifices on their behalf and want the best for them. But I very much doubt that discounts to civilian bureaucrats are similarly favored.

I really don't care what may or may not be permissible under 5 CFR 2635. As a professional government contracting person, I cared and would still care what the public thinks is right. I want my profession to be viewed favorably, as trustworthy and looking out for the public's interests, rather than my own as part of a special interest group. As a former civil servant, married to a retired civil servant, I don't understand why a civil servant should get a discount just because he or she is a civil servant. In a righteous world, Congress or the president would expressly forbid it, but I think they know they'd have to give up a lot of freebies or be seen as worse hypocrites than we already think they are. So they allow it.

I would be embarrassed to tell a fellow citizen that I get a discount that they can't get merely because I'm a government employee and they're not. They're paying my salary, a generally good one. Why should I get a discount simply because my office or my agency or some other agency is buying that company's goods or services with their money? What will they think I'm up to?

I understand why some companies want to give a discount to government employees. They're a big group, and selling to them will increase profits and maybe earn some, shall we say, "points." What I can't understand is government employees being willing to take them (in the context of the above quotes). Maybe it's not strictly illegal, I don't know, but I would have been professionally embarrassed to accept such a deal as described in the above quotes. As a CO I would never have discussed it, much less agreed to it. I'd have been ashamed.

In my opinion, accepting such a discount in the context of the opening quotes would be unethical, even if not illegal. I think discussing the possibility of such a discount or accepting the offer of such a discount from a company with which my office is doing business is a horrible idea. It literally makes my skin crawl. As a CO I wouldn't parse regulations looking for rules and exceptions. I wouldn't put the issue before an ethics advisor. I'd simply reject the idea out of hand.

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Withdrawn. 

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I agree and will withdraw my reply to Bairele's post. 

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In regard to Vern's post above concerning the contracting officer, almost everyone who has opined on this topic thinks the original discount offered to employees of one agency is improper.  That would include the contracting officer receiving the discount.  A solution that has been suggested to remedy this impropriety is that the contracting officer request the contractor to extend the discount to all Federal employees.  If the contractor agrees, this would permit the contracting officer to take advantage of the discount, whereas (s)he could not ethically if only agency employees got the discount.  Would requesting that the discount be extended to all Federal employees be using public office for private gain by the contracting officer because (s)he now can take advantage of the discount?

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3 minutes ago, Retreadfed said:

Would requesting that the discount be extended to all Federal employees be using public office for private gain by the contracting officer because (s)he now can take advantage of the discount?

Yes.

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