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Highlights

GAO discussed the Department of the Interior's efforts to reconcile Indian trust fund accounts, focusing on: (1) its efforts to implement trust fund management improvements; and (2) the usefulness of a legislated settlement process for resolving unsettled account balances. GAO noted that: (1) $2.4 billion in receipt and disbursement transactions could not be traced to supporting documentation at the end of fiscal year 1995; (2) Interior did not disclose the methodology used in the reconciliation process in its reconciliation report, or discuss the extent to which substitutions were made to lease samples; (3) 2 tribes have accepted their account reconciliations, 3 tribes are disputing their reconciliation results, and the remaining 275 tribes are undecided; (4) a legislated settlement process could be used to resolve disputes concerning tribal account balances; (5) this legislation would include a mediation process, and if needed, binding arbitration; (6) Interior's trust fund management, and accounting systems controls do not ensure accurate trust fund accounting and asset management; (7) Interior will face costly reconciliations and settlements in the future if it does not correct its trust fund management problems; and (8) Interior needs comprehensive planning, management commitment across all Indian trust program offices, and additional resources to resolve trust fund management problems.

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