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Interior Dept. institutes ethics program

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 (UPI) — An employee ethics program designed to encourage greater accountability and participation was announced Monday by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The initiative provides more financial and personnel resources, boosts authority of ethics officers and requires more employee involvement in evaluating performance, accounting and compliance, the department said Monday in a release.

The department’s conduct has been called into question several times during the past several years, including a controversial oil payment scheme, and a corruption investigation of George W. Bush‘s Interior chief Gale Norton over her support of oil-shale exploration by a Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary months before the oil giant hired her as a legal counsel.

“I have made openness and public trust my highest priorities at the Department of the Interior,” Salazar said in a message to the department’s 67,000 employees at more than 2,500 sites across the United States. “As public servants, each of us shares responsibility for fulfilling this commitment and to upholding the highest ethical standards at all times.”

Salazar’s order provides department-wide direction to enhance and promote an ethical culture, honesty and accountability, the department said. The order also requires Interior bureaus to ensure ethics offices are funded and staffed adequately.

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