Government Accountability Office: Interior Department Needs To Help Tribes

Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - 4:48pm
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 8:55am
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A federal watchdog group has found the Interior Department needs to help tribes wade through bureaucratic red tape so they can provide social services and build homes, roads and businesses in a more timely manner.

For more than four decades, federal laws like the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act and the Helping Expedite and Advance Tribal Home Ownership Act has promoted tribal self government. But the Government Accountability Office found in their report released this month Bureau of Indian Affairs programs didn't provide adequate information for tribes to negotiate self-determination contracts, and funds were disbursed months and sometimes years late.

Government Accountability officials say the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a branch of the Interior Department, needs to provide consistent standards and training for tribes, track and distribute funds, and make the review process and timeline transparent.

Interior Department officials said in the report the agency was using an inefficient number of spreadsheets to coordinate distribution. It had staff shortages and sometimes had trouble getting proper signatures from tribes. The agency agreed to fix the inefficiencies and help tribes administer their federal programs.

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