The DOI Inspector General evaluated the policies and practices of the Office of Indian Services and the Office of Self Governance, two organizations within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs (AS-IA) that manage aspects of distributing appropriated funds to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. The evaluation focused on whether funds from the Tiwahe Initiative, a pilot program that increases funding to all eligible tribes with the goal of funding social service and child welfare programs, was distributed accurately.
The Office of Indian Services, the Office of Self Governance, and AS-IA each played a role in the process of distributing Tiwahe funds. The Office of Indian Services was tasked with selection of a funding criteria, methodology, and financial distribution to the Office of Self Governance, which is the recordkeeping entity and liaison for self-governance tribes (tribes that operate without direct Indian Affairs involvement). AS-IA oversaw the distribution and acted as a final arbiter in funding decisions.
The IG found that many eligible tribes may not be receiving the funding they should be, and that this was due to:
• The Office of Self Governance’s outdated tribal budget records, which were used in calculating the amounts of Tiwahe funding tribes would receive
• The Office of Indian Services’ inconsistent application of the formula used to calculate the funding
• Both offices’ failure to communicate with each other
• The absence of policy at either office to manage major distributions like Tiwahe
The IG estimates that tribes have been underfunded by at least $458,400 to date due to the use of outdated records. Because Tiwahe is a pilot program, its funding increases are supposed to be permanently added to the tribes’ budgets. Therefore, the effects of underfunding tribes may be felt long after Tiwahe ends. In addition, these inaccurate records could affect many future funding efforts, impacting the Department’s trust responsibility with the tribes.
In the report, the DOI IG made seven recommendations to AS-IA that will help correct issues with the Tiwahe distribution, manage the two offices, and improve the accuracy and efficiency of any future distributions affecting all eligible tribes. After reviewing a draft version of our report, AS-IA concurred with four of our recommendations, did not concur with two recommendations, and partially concurred with one.