FROM THE ARCHIVE

Trust fund corruption not a problem says witness

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TUESDAY, JANUARY 15, 2002

A witness testifying on behalf of Secretary of Interior Gale Norton said on Monday that her company's expensive and fledgling software system has not corrupted individual Indian trust data, contrary to published reports.

Deborah McCloud, an employee of Applied Terravision, a Texas firm contracted to develop a trust accounting system, told a government lawyer that corruption of existing data is not possible. Tests of the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System (TAAMS) occur on a "copy of the data" and not on "live" information, she said.

"That would never happen because it's a test environment," said McCloud. "It can't happen."

McCloud, who said she has managed TAAMS full-time for her company since the summer of 1999, was responding to concerns raised by a federal judge presiding over the Individual Indian Money (IIM) class action. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, and his court appointed monitor Joseph S. Kieffer III, have voiced doubts about the true status of the $40 million project.

In an August 2001 report, Kieffer disclosed that a software failure in Billings, Montana, last summer affected existing trust data. Tommy Thompson, a senior trust official, testified last month that he was aware of the same problem, based on information from a member of his own staff and Deputy Commissioner Sharon Blackwell.

Indianz.Com also reported the existence of the bug, which came during an integration test, in July.

Norton's attorneys, and now, their only witness to have discussed the issue, have disputed the nature of the glitch. Scott Harris of the civil division at the Department of Justice said there was no evidence the assets of Indian landowners were affected by the test.

But McCloud drew a distinction which could prove important. She said the test environment was used prior to TAAMS becoming the "system of record."

By the time last summer's test occurred, TAAMS had been designated the official system in Billings. McCloud did not say, and Harris did not ask, whether the bug in question occurred in a live "production" environment.

"It depends on stages," she testified. "When we're talking '99, before TAAMS would go into the system of record, we had an environment set up that wouldn't be considered production."

In her testimony, McCloud also drew a line between failures of her company's software and problems associated with the data that goes into it. As a software product, TAAMS works, she said, but there are independent "data conversion" problems.

To the Bureau of Indian Affairs user, however, she admitted the entire system would not be working.

"The customer doesn't know the difference between the data being incorrect or the software being correct," she said, "because to them it was just wrong."

Today on Indianz.Com:
Interior official denies trust fund 'conspiracy' (1/15)

Relevant Links:
TAAMS - http://www.taams.com
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com

Related Stories:
Dom Nessi expected as Norton witness (1/14)
TAAMS: The Titanic Failure (12/20)
TAAMS failure traced to promoted manager (12/20)
Norton ordered to submit trust fund report (12/18)

More on TAAMS:
Court report criticizes trust fund software (8/10)
Court monitor sets sights on software system (8/1)
Retaliation charged as BIA official jumps ship (7/25)
Latest trust fund system a 'failure' (7/11)
Interior holding back security reports (6/29)
Action threatened against Interior (6/25)
Memo: Trust reform project needs extra attention (4/11)
BIA official: Organization was in 'disarray' (4/5)
Interior: Trust reform is working (3/22)
'Emergency' trust fund meeting requested (3/21)
BIA Memo: Trust reform out of control (3/16)