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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) coverage to tribal contractors under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, focusing on: (1) the process for implementing FTCA coverage for tribal self-determination contracts; (2) the FTCA claims history for tribal self-determination contracts for fiscal years (FY) 1997 through 1999; and (3) FTCA coverage issues that are unique to tribal contractors.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Health and Human Services 1. To ensure that the federal government is not paying more than is necessary to resolve FTCA claims involving tribal contractors, the Secretaries of the Interior and of Health and Human Services should direct their claims processing personnel to determine if duplicative private liability insurance exists and tender the claims to the private insurers when it is in the best interests of the United States to do so.
Closed - Implemented
In its comments on the report, the Department of Health and Human Services concurred with the recommendation and outlined corrective actions to address the recommendation. During the Fall of 2000 and the Spring of 2001, the Department and the Indian Health Service implemented our recommendation. The claims processing personnel in the Department's Claims Branch now routinely check for duplicative private insurance when processing tort claims involving tribal contractors.
Department of the Interior 2. To ensure that the federal government is not paying more than is necessary to resolve FTCA claims involving tribal contractors, the Secretaries of the Interior and of Health and Human Services should direct their claims processing personnel to determine if duplicative private liability insurance exists and tender the claims to the private insurers when it is in the best interests of the United States to do so.
Closed - Implemented
In its comments on the July 2000 report, the Department of the Interior agreed with GAO's report that the U.S. government could potentially pay both for the claims and the liability insurance to cover them. The follow-up response from the Department, dated September 27, 2000, stated that "The Department of the Interior takes this recommendation seriously and has already initiated efforts to address the concerns raised in the report." The Department of the Interior's Solicitor has directed the claims processing personnel in the field to check for duplicative private liability insurance when processing tort claims involving tribal contractors. The Solicitor's office is also in the process of implementing a new computer system that will allow the Department to monitor the processing of tort claims by the field offices.

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