More Effective Controls Over Bureau of Indian Affairs Administrative Costs Are Needed

FGMSD-78-17: Published: Feb 15, 1978. Publicly Released: Feb 15, 1978.

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The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was asked by congressional committees to reduce costs of administering Indian programs for fiscal years 1977 and 1978 by about $8.5 million because evidence suggested that costs were excessive.

BIA reduced costs by about $900,000 and then, rather than reduce the remaining administrative costs as directed, it reduced funds for Indian programs. It also avoided reductions in administrative costs by such actions as: netting the reduction against other program costs and allocating them to the many BIA offices without identifying the amount of reduction; reducing funds for computer operations and recovering funds by receiving reimbursement from Indian programs for services; and failing to reduce personnel, claiming that reductions would have prevented it from providing essential services. BIA arguments for maintaining its administrative costs level are inconsistent with audit report disclosures that shortcomings in personnel organizations' operating budgets to management and other adverse conditions have resulted in unnecessarily high costs. Weaknesses in the BIA financial management system prevented it from controlling costs effectively and contributed to its high administrative costs.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should: exercise better controls over BIA administrative costs by changing its method of appropriating funds for this purpose, using separate appropriations or a dollar limitation; and specify amounts for personnel costs.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require BIA to change its budgets and related justifications to show total administrative costs and personnel by specific offices and program category. He should also direct BIA to: revise its accounting system to use its organizations' operating budgets to control costs and prevent unauthorized deviations from operating budgets, establish fund controls that will keep area offices within amounts budgeted, and require prior approval for significant deviations, act immediately to reduce its administrative costs for fiscal year 1978 by the $4 million requested by the committees, discontinue plans to show reimbursement for computer operations as reductions in administrative costs, and identify and eliminate overlapping positions and unqualified personnel.

    Agency Affected:


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