Report slams BIA roads program in Alaska
The Obama administration is being warned against sending millions of dollars in stimulus funds to Alaska due to mismanagement and accountability problems at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that President Barack Obama signed into law on Tuesday includes over $450 million for the Indian Reservation Roads Program (IRRP) and other transportation projects. But the top investigator at the Interior Department says the BIA can't be trusted to ensure the money is spent wisely in Alaska.

"We found that the Alaska region's inattention to expenditures and failure to manage its program has repeatedly jeopardized the success of Alaskan Native community roads projects and caused millions of dollars to be wasted or unaccounted for," Inspector General Earl E. Devaney said in a February 9 report.

As one example, Devaney cited an unnamed Alaska Native village that was authorized to spend more than $2 million to build and repair roads. But the report said the more than $1.6 million was wasted on unnecessary work because the BIA failed to manage the project.

"The Alaska regional contracting officer, responsible for this project when it was mishandled, has been the BIA Regional IRRP Director for the past four years," the report said.

In another case, Devaney said the BIA approved $500,000 for a road project. But the Alaska Native village, unnamed in the report, spent the money on equipment and a restaurant/saloon.

"The road was apparently never designed and BIA has taken no perceptible action to have the monies returned or to require the community to complete the agreed-upon work," the report stated.

Tribes, Alaska Natives and their advocates fought hard for inclusion in the $787 billion stimulus, which directs about $2.5 billion to Indian Country. National Congress of American Indians President Joe Garcia said in his recent State of Indian Nations address that tribal projects were worthy of assistance.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar also has hailed inclusion of Indian Country in the package. He is holding a media roundtable today to discuss how Interior will distribute its share of the funds.

Indian Country roads, bridges and transportation projects are funded through Interior and the Department of Transportation. Devaney said his report was prompted by a Transportation review of the IRR program that uncovered mismanagement at the BIA's Alaska regional office.

According to Indian Country Works, a new website set up by NCAI, the stimulus contains $310 million for IRRP at Transportation, $17.25 million for the Tribal Transit Program at the Federal Transit Administration and an estimated $13 million for road construction and maintenance at the BIA.

OIG Report:
BIA Alaska Regional Indian Reservation Roads Program Rife with Mismanagement and Lacking Program Oversight (February 9, 2009)

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:
H.R.1 | S.1

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