Jodi Rave: Trust reform an issue for Obama
"As Native America anxiously awaits a presidential appointment to the Interior Department, a congressional watchdog agency has told President-elect Barack Obama's transition team that Indian trust fund reform is a key issue before the department.

“The soul of Indian Country is at stake,” said Sally Willet, an administrative law judge and Indian Land Working Group consultant. “And the soul of Indian Country is the land base. Trust reform under the current administration has been elimination of programs, services and funding. Nothing has been improved for landowners except possibly getting the wrong balance faster.”

A Government Accountability Office overview lists six primary concerns before the new Interior secretary, including management of Indian trust funds and collection of oil and gas royalties.

“While Interior has taken significant steps in the last 10 years to address weaknesses in certain Indian programs, it is still in the process of implementing key trust fund reforms, including preparation of a timetable for completing remaining activities, to effectively manage more than 300,000 trust fund accounts with assets of more than $3 billion,” according to the overview to the presidential transition team.

The GAO described the department's trust fund management efforts as an “internal control weakness.”

The American public will expect Obama to hire an experienced leader who can effectively manage federally owned land and administer Native programs within the department, said Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the department."

Get the Story:
Jodi Rave: GAO says trust fund reform key Interior issue (The Missoulian 11/12)

Government Accountability Office Documents:
Strengthening the Accountability of Indian and Island Community Programs | The Office of the Special Trustee Has Implemented Several Key Trust Reforms Required by the 1994 Act, but Important Decisions about Its Future Remain | BIA’s Efforts to Impose Time Frames and Collect Better Data Should Improve the Processing of Land in Trust Applications

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