Bureau of Indian Affairs:

Long-Standing Internal Control Weaknesses Warrant Congressional Attention

RCED-92-118: Published: May 8, 1992. Publicly Released: May 8, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) implementation of its Social Services Program, focusing on whether BIA consistently applied internal controls in the general assistance and burial assistance program components.

GAO found that, in the general assistance program component, BIA: (1) did not document whether assistance recipients were also receiving assistance through the Aid to Families with Dependent Children or Supplemental Security Income programs; (2) made multiple payments to the same individual; (3) inconsistently computed prorated payments, due to area offices' different interpretations of BIA guidance; and (4) does not adequately control access to its computerized payment system or properly separate the duties of program staff, making the system vulnerable to fraud and waste. GAO also found that, in the burial assistance program component, BIA: (1) did not verify or document the available resources of decedents before approving assistance payments; and (2) inconsistently required documentation and allowed different levels of compensation for burial expenses. In addition, GAO found that BIA: (1) has not established or maintained key internal controls for either program component regarding eligibility determinations, employee supervision, computer system access, or payment reviews; (2) has not successfully corrected long-standing internal control weaknesses and has reprogrammed quality control staff resources for other program purposes; and (3) needs to take immediate corrective action to resolve those weaknesses and demonstrate an agencywide commitment to establishing and maintaining effective internal controls.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The focus of congressional activity is to reduce and eliminate BIA's involvement in Indian programs. According to House Appropriations Committee staff, Congress has given up on BIA and has focused its efforts on providing funding to Indian tribes to foster the federal policy of Indian self-determination.

    Matter: The cognizant Senate and House committees should consider requiring BIA to: (1) develop a comprehensive management or strategic plan with measurable objectives and milestones and specific organizational responsibilities delineated within the organization for correcting systemic internal control weaknesses; and (2) periodically report to Congress on its progress in meeting the plan's progress.


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