Government equipment, systems, supplies must be used exclusively for official business

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As a government employee, one must be mindful of what can and can’t be done when using government equipment, systems and supplies. Is it OK to check personal email? Is it OK to print personal material?

Betty Walker, an administrative attorney with Fort Knox’s Staff Judge Advocate, said using government items must be used specifically during the employee’s official duty day while conducting official duties. But, she said, an individual can use his or her government computer to check their personal email if that’s done during lunchtime.

She added that the Joint Ethics Regulation prohibits using government property for personal use.

“You can’t download anything that might cause a problem on the server—gamble or view pornography,” explained Walker about using a government computer.

Walker added that also includes checking personal social media accounts with a personal cellphone during the duty day. However, some individuals don’t have access to a government cellphone and sometimes use their personal cellphone to conduct official business. Walker said that shouldn’t happen, but if the individual is using their personal cellphone the government can request access if needed.

“If you choose to do that you have to understand the government may be able to get into that communication system,” she said. (If there is a question) the government can say, ‘let me have access (to the recording).’”

Although an individual can’t use items such as government computers for personal use during the duty day, he or she can use electrical outlets to charge their personal cellphone.

“It’s acceptable to use government electricity (when charging a cellphone) unless you have a high-powered technical device (that’s) using (a significant amount) of electricity,” Walker said.

In most cases a government vehicle must be used to conduct official business, but there are instances when a person can use the vehicle for personal use. For example, if an individual is on temporary duty and they are using the government vehicle, it can be used for taking care of common necessities, said Walker. The policy that allows individuals to use the vehicle is AR 58-1 and the Joint Travel Regulation which governs what can and can’t be done with a government vehicle while a person is TDY.

Another instance for using government property for personal use is making a personal call. For example, individuals can use a government phone or cellphone if their personal cellphone isn’t charged and they need to call a family member or their child’s day care center.

“(It’s OK if) the weather is bad or you’re going to be late—something that won’t require a two-hour conversation,” Walker explained. “You can use government communications. The general policy is if you have something you need to take care of …take care of it. Otherwise you are not going to be able to concentrate on your job. Keep it brief, and do what you need to do.”

Walker pointed out that using government property comes down to use. If an individual has to use the government computer or printer it’s OK if it’s one or two pieces of paper. She said a person is prohibited from printing hundreds of pieces of paper.

“One example when (someone) crossed the line was a woman (going to school for her) master’s (degree),” she said. “She would come to work and use duty time, computer, printer and paper to complete her homework. That’s not allowed. If caught, this can lead to (an individual’s) termination.”

Walker said for those who have a laptop the computer can be taken home to complete official work outside of normal duty hours under certain circumstances such as the individual being approved by their supervisor to work overtime or comp time. Another example would be approval of a, “telework agreement,” said Walker. n