Financial Management:

Recommendations on Indian Trust Fund Strategic Plan Proposals

AIMD-98-37: Published: Nov 26, 1997. Publicly Released: Nov 26, 1997.

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GAO presented recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior, focusing on its review of the: (1) Special Trustee for American Indians' strategic plan for Indian Trust Fund accounting and asset management improvement; and (2) Secretary of the Interior's August 22, 1997, memorandum that outlined plans for implementing several of the initiatives in the strategic plan.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO's July 1997 testimony identified implementation issues related to several of the strategic plan's proposed initiatives; (2) the August 1997 memorandum outlined plans that relate to several of the initiatives for which GAO had identified implementation issues; (3) there remain some implementation issues not addressed by the memorandum, including the timing of record cleanup and conversion in connection with acquiring the proposed automated accounting system module and the need for additional coordination and planning for proposed major information technology investments; and (4) addressing those issues will enhance the opportunity for successful implementation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its section 236 letter, the Department of the Interior concurred with the recommendation and stated that IIM cleanup issues and conversion timing questions have been resolved. A data cleanup contractor is in place and is performing cleanup of the IIM file jackets, and a conversion schedule has been completed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Special Trustee to work with the Department's Chief Information Officer to take immediate action to resolve Individual Indian Money (IIM) record cleanup and conversion timing questions so that the IIM accounting system module acquisition can move forward.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of the Interior agreed with this recommendation and implementation has begun. In response to this recommendation, the department stated that (1) an extensive project management and oversight structure has been established; (2) business and functional information is being exchanged and coordinated through the Trust Improvement Project Team; (3) a formal concept of operations documents will be prepared and exchanged for the Trust Funds Management function and the Trust Asset Management functions; and (4) contacts were made with many stakeholders, including departmental land management and trust asset management elements, to explain project objectives and approach. However, GAO subsequently found that Interior did not follow a sound process for defining its requirements, and GAO made an additional recommendation to help Interior better address this area (see GAO/AIMD-99-53 and AIMD-00-259). In August 2002, Interior reported to the Federal District Court, which is hearing class-action trust litigation against Interior, that it had hired a contractor to identify and document Interior's current trust business processes and practices. In August 2004, Interior reported to the Court that the trust enterprise architect and subject matter experts continue to develop system requirement specifications for land and natural resource use management. On December 10, 2013, the Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform, (Commission) formed as part of the Cobell Indian Trust Fund Settlement, issued its report after a series of public hearings. The Commission studied the overall Trust Administration System, including systems and processes involving land, natural resources, forestry, oil and gas assets and management and accounting related to those assets and proceeds from leasing and sales of assets. The study documented progress made on the overall management framework; organizations, functions, and systems; and coordination and beneficiary services and made recommendations for improving coordination and efficiencies in in operations; delivery of services and communications with beneficiaries; and systems modernization. The study stated that BIA operations and systems had achieved level 2 status--meaning that operations and performance are stable and repetitive.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Special Trustee to work with the Department's Chief Information Officer to identify all related business functions and obtain input on information requirements from all stakeholders to: (1) provide adequate evidence of a framework for sharing related business and functional information and program requirements among the cognizant organizations and functions; and (2) support the design and development of management and information systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of the Interior agreed with this recommendation and implementation is in its early stages. In response to this recommendation, the department stated that: (1) coordination efforts are under way with the department's Chief Information Officer and various bureaus; (2) ongoing and future acquisitions will comply with legal and regulatory requirements, the Clinger-Cohen Act, and OMB guidance; and (3) new trust systems will be included in the department's overall strategic Information Resources Management Plan, evaluated under criteria for major information system investments, and designed to align technology with mission goals. However, GAO subsequently found that the department had not yet defined an integrated architecture for Indian trust operations, and reiterated the recommendation (see GAO/AIMD-99-53). In August 2002, Interior reported to the Federal District Court, which is hearing class-action trust litigation against Interior, that it had hired a contractor to assist in defining and documenting a trust architecture. In August 2004 Interior reported to the Court that it had completed a self-assessment which indicates the architecture is being integrated. The December 2013 Report of the Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform documents that trust systems have been integrated and processes for communication and coordination among agencies responsible for managing various Indian trust assets has been established.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Special Trustee to work with the Department's Chief Information Officer to comply with legal and regulatory requirements for major information technology investments by developing a strategic information resources management plan, criteria for the evaluation of major information system investments, and an information architecture that aligns technology with mission goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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