FROM THE ARCHIVE
Trust system takes center stage in contempt
Facebook Twitter Email
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2002

The first project manager of a trust fund accounting system originally pitched as the solution to more than a century of financial mismanagement took the stand in federal court on Thursday and declared the stunted $40 million effort a failure.

Dom Nessi, a former Bureau of Indian Affairs official now with the National Park Service, said he views the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System (TAAMS) as unsuccessful. After spending millions of dollars in contracting, development and other costs, he said the software package has "basically failed."

The revelation comes as little surprise to anyone, as the Department of Interior has halted further work and implementation of TAAMS. Earlier this month, officials told U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth they agreed with a third-party assessment that there were problems which require a second look.

But as a witness testifying on the government's behalf, Nessi hardly seems an adequate defense for Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb. Of the five charges the pair face, the status of the system, and whether the court was informed adequately, is a large focus of the contempt trial which resumed yesterday.

Lamberth himself questioned whether Norton really viewed trust reform as a "top priority." He said it was "strange" that, after more than two years, the department still has no contract officer to manage TAAMS and no revised document to govern system development.

"Yes, it is strange," agreed Deborah McLeod, who is charge of the system on behalf of her Texas company, Applied Terravision.

In fact, testimony has repeatedly pinned responsibility back on the hands of department officials. Witnesses for 300,000 American Indian trust beneficiaries and the government have pointed to infighting as a key problem hindering trust reform.

McLeod noted the conflicts between the BIA, which was managing TAAMS from project inception, and the Office of the Special Trustee, which is charged with oversight of trust reform. She testified that she first noticed the dispute in the fall of 2000, when she said OST employees in the Office of Trust Fund Management (OTFM) began to clash.

But she said the office, overseen by Donna Erwin, didn't appear to be entirely invested. "OTFM didn't stay involved," she testified. "BIA had more dedication."

Erwin has since taken over TAAMS and a related subproject. She is detailed to work under Ross Swimmer, a former Reagan administration official whose involvement in the reorganization of trust has been opposed by tribes nationwide.

Testimony resumes today with Nessi back on the stand. He left his job as the BIA's chief information officer last July just as computer hackers were breaking into computer systems housing the assets of the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust.

The TAAMS project has seen six managers since it was started in late 1998.

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Trust Reform, NCAI - http://130.94.214.68/main/pages/
issues/other_issues/trust_reform.asp

Related Stories:
Federal judge resuming Norton contempt trial (1/31)
Norton effort 'too little, too late' for judge (1/16)
Interior official denies trust fund 'conspiracy' (1/15)
Witness testifies against software corruption (1/15)
Dom Nessi expected as Norton witness (1/14)
Norton launches contempt defense (1/11)
Cobell plaintiffs rest case (1/10)
End in sight for Norton contempt trial (1/10)
Top trust official lacks 'confidence' in reform (1/9)
Babbitt, others dropped as witnesses (1/9)
Trial resumes with trust testimony (1/7)
Contempt trial resumes in federal court (1/4)
Cobell: Justice for Indian Country (12/24)
Contempt trial breaking for Christmas (12/21)
IIM checks being delayed at Interior (12/21)
Interior can't find proof of corruption (12/21)
Tribal leaders blast Norton proposal (12/21)
Reports crucial to Norton contempt (12/21)
TAAMS failure traced to first manager (12/20)
TAAMS: The Titanic Failure (12/20)
Judge questions role in trust fund 'circus' (12/20)
Norton drops objections to court monitor (12/20)
TAAMS: The Titanic Failure (12/20)
Judge questions role in trust fund 'circus' (12/20)
TAAMS failure traced to promoted manager (12/20)
Ruling on court monitor put off (12/20)
Norton ordered to submit trust fund report (12/18)
Judge rebuffs Norton challenge (12/17)
Week two of trial continues today (12/17)
History of neglect drives trust case (12/17)
Judge eager for Norton testimony (12/13)
Editorial: Bad faith, wasted dollars (12/13)
Confusion, conflict detailed at Interior (12/12)
Exclusive: Trust reform assessment (12/12)
Lamberth pokes fun at government (12/12)
EDS trust reform report online (12/12)
Coverage of Contempt Trial, Day 2 (12/12)
Contempt trial continues (12/11)
Contested reports focus of contempt trial (12/11)
The Trial: Witnesses to Contempt (12/11)
Coverage of Contempt Trial, Day 1 (12/11)
Norton contempt trial opens (12/10)
Norton attacks court monitor (12/10)
Norton set for contempt trial (12/10)

Stay Connected
Contact
Search
Most Read
News Archive
2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

About This Page

You are enjoying stories from the Indianz.Com Archive, a collection dating back to 2000. Some outgoing links may no longer work due to age.

All stories are available for publishing via Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)