FROM THE ARCHIVE
Norton delaying trust fund report
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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2001

Despite making claims of progress on fixing the broken trust fund, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton doesn't want to turn in a court-mandated status report.

Due this week, Norton and her attorneys are trying to convince a federal judge they don't have to submit the document. Instead, they want to give U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth a report prepared by EDS Corporation, a management consulting firm who was paid nearly $3 million to assess trust reform.

The EDS report itself has gained virtually legendary status among tribal leaders, who were first denied a copy but have now been given access to it via the Internet. Norton based her proposed reorganization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs on recommendations made by EDS, an overhaul overwhelming rejected by the nation's tribes.

Lamberth, too, has raised interesting questions about the third-party report. Last week, he said it essentially proved the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System, a $40 million software project, is a failure.

"We now know from EDS that TAMS is a total failure, that it's never going to work, said Lamberth on November 30. "EDS basically has told the Secretary, scrap the whole thing, you threw away all those millions of dollars for nothing, start all over."

"I take it that's what I read the EDS report to say, and I understand that," he said.

Nevertheless, Norton claims the report provides an accurate description of her department's progress for the months of August, September and October. A court motion filed by her attorneys at the Department of Justice's civil division -- who were slammed by Lamberth in open court yesterday -- asks for permission to submit the EDS document and two others today.

"These documents are the result of many interviews, reviews of documents, and analyses of Interior's current plans and progress for trust reform," the attorneys wrote. "These reports provide detailed insights into the strengths and weaknesses of Interior's efforts to date and lay out an approach for improved efforts in the future."

Whatever the claims, an attorney representing 300,000 American Indians doesn't believe Norton should be able to submit the EDS assessment. The report doesn't even cover the full three-month period, said Dennis Gingold.

"The fact of the matter is EDS -- if you look at the source of information in EDS, it's based on discussions," Gingold said. "It's not based on reviewing reports; it's based on discussions with individuals."

Norton's obstinance isn't the first she has displayed on the issue. She delayed the 7th quarterly report by a month in order to resolve what were said to be objections by her top trust fund official, Tom Slonaker, who eventually refused to verify it.

Four senior managers also declined to support it, saying they had been given an "intimidating" order by Solicitor Bill Myers to do so. A fifth declined to certify it for other reasons.

In his landmark December 1999 ruling, ordered the Interior to provide him with quarterly updates on trust reform. Slonaker, a Clinton appointee who took on the position as Special Trustee in July 2000, has raised doubts about them going back to August 2000.

Get the EDS Report:
DOI Trust Reform Interim Report and Roadmap For TAAMS and BIA Data Cleanup (November 12, 2001)

Today on Indianz.Com:
Judge orders Interior to cut Internet access (12/6)
Judge holding hearing today (12/6)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://indiantrust.doi.gov
Office of the Special Trustee - http://www.ost.doi.gov
Trust Management Improvement Project - http://www.doi.gov/bia/trust/tmip.htm
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com

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