Alarmed by the inability of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to account for $95 million, almost 10 cents of every dollar it spent last year, the Bush Administration announced Thursday that it was dispatching a management team to New Mexico to oversee the agency’s finances.
The action was taken after a joint investigation by the Office of Management and Budget and the Interior Department reported “severe and wide-ranging problems” at the agency’s financial headquarters in Albuquerque.
“There’s no suitable accounting oversight, no rational financial management system . . . . The current system is like an ATM (cash machine) for BIA employees,” one budget office official said.
Investigators said 12,000 individuals had access to the BIA’s financial records. In the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, those people made “over 500,000 adjustments” to the agency’s accounts, they said.
Spokesmen for the BIA and the Interior Department expressed confidence that most accounting changes were proper and said they doubted that investigators would find any criminal activity connected with what they acknowledged were longstanding problems.