Review finds BIA doesn't always follow driver policy
The Bureau of Indian Affairs does not consistently follow its employee driver policy even after paying $4 million in a high-profile drunk driving controversy, according to a recent audit.

In January 2002, two elderly couples were killed in New Mexico when a BIA employee with a record of drunk driving crashed into their vehicle. Lloyd Larson, who was driving a BIA vehicle on the wrong side of the highway at the time, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crime.

The BIA ended up paying $2 million to the family of one couple and paid another $2 million to the family of the second couple after being found negligent by a federal judge. In response to the incident, the BIA adopted a motor vehicle operation policy to ensure all employees maintain safe driving records.

But an audit by the Office of the Inspector General at the Interior Department said found that the policy isn't being properly followed. Based on a non-statistical sampling of employee records at one the BIA's safety offices, 42 percent of employees who operate motor vehicles failed to complete a required form.

Similar results were seen at two other safety offices, including one that oversees Bureau of Indian Education employees. Some forms were turned in after the school year started, according to report, putting the safety of children at risk.

The form is important because it requires employees to describe their driving history, including any convictions related to alcohol or drugs. Prior to the case involving Larson, who had five such convictions, the BIA did not take action against employees with criminal driving records.

"Failing to receive these reports from all drivers in a timely manner undermines the effectiveness of safety officer reviews, and delays or thwarts the license revocation process," the report said.

The Inspector General also found that the BIA wasn't performing regular reviews of employees who are authorized to operate government vehicles. Driving safety training wasn't being conducted on a timely basis either, according to the report.

The report recommends the BIA establish specific schedules to ensure that driving forms are turned in and processed in a timely manner. It also calls on the BIA to validate employee driving history information to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's National Driver Registry, a practice that doesn't occur today.

"Untimely and ineffective implementation of the Motor Vehicle Operation Policy has resulted in inconsistent safety performance and has allowed employees to continue driving when their driving history should have precluded the continuance of driving privileges," the report said.

Inspector General Report:
Inspection of the Implementation of the Motor Vehicle Operation Policy, Bureau of Indian Affairs (July 2008)

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