The Obama administration is being warned against sending millions of dollars in stimulus funds to Alaska due to mismanagement and accountability problems
at the Bureau of Indian Affairs
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that President Barack
signed into law on Tuesday includes
over $450 million for the
Indian Reservation Roads Program
and other transportation projects.
But the top investigator at the Interior Department
the BIA can't be trusted to ensure the money is
spent wisely in Alaska.
"We found that the Alaska region's inattention to expenditures and
failure to manage its program has repeatedly jeopardized the success
of Alaskan Native community roads projects and caused millions of
dollars to be wasted or unaccounted for," Inspector General
Earl E. Devaney
said in a February 9 report.
As one example, Devaney cited an unnamed Alaska Native village
that was authorized to spend more than
$2 million to build and repair roads.
But the report said the more than $1.6 million was wasted on
unnecessary work because the BIA failed to manage the project.
"The Alaska regional contracting officer, responsible for
this project when it was mishandled, has been the BIA Regional
IRRP Director for the past four years," the report said.
In another case, Devaney said the BIA approved $500,000
for a road project. But the Alaska Native village, unnamed
in the report, spent the money on equipment and
"The road was apparently never designed and BIA has taken no perceptible action to have the monies returned or to require the community to complete the agreed-upon work,"
the report stated.
Tribes, Alaska Natives and their advocates fought hard for
inclusion in the $787 billion stimulus, which
directs about $2.5 billion to Indian Country.
National Congress of American Indians
President Joe Garcia
said in his recent State of Indian Nations address
that tribal projects were worthy of assistance.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
also has hailed inclusion of
Indian Country in the package. He is holding a media
roundtable today to discuss how Interior will
distribute its share of the funds.
Indian Country roads, bridges and transportation projects
are funded through Interior and the Department of Transportation
Devaney said his report was prompted by a Transportation
review of the IRR program that uncovered mismanagement at the
BIA's Alaska regional office.
According to Indian Country Works
, a new website set up by
NCAI, the stimulus contains $310 million for IRRP
at Transportation, $17.25 million for the Tribal Transit Program
Federal Transit Administration
and an estimated $13 million for
road construction and maintenance at the BIA.
BIA Alaska Regional Indian Reservation Roads Program Rife with Mismanagement and Lacking Program Oversight
(February 9, 2009)
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:
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