By Phil Drake | Montana Watchdog
HELENA — A federal review of $12.3 million in grants to the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation to build or renovate correctional facilities found transactions were mostly recorded accurately, but that administrative processes were not always conducted properly.
Also, the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s documentation did not support information provided in financial reports, according to a July audit by U.S. Department of Justice.
The grant ran from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2012.
Auditors with the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General said verifying accounts dating back to February 2010 was difficult, because a previous project manager, who left CCT, “apparently took all of the contract records in addition to erasing the computer drive.”
Among the the report’s recommendations were:
- Having procedures in place for clerical duties, such as bank reconciliations and accounts payable;
- Ensuring that “drawdowns” by CCT are accurate and supported;
- Retaining records for all solicitations, bids and contract awards.
In a drawdown, money for the grants is set aside, and the funds are withdrawn from that grant, a federal official said.
In a July 2 response, Bruce Sunchild Sr., CCT chairman, said the tribe agreed with the recommendations and has taken steps to improve accounting and documentation. He said new hires would be required to sign a form that outlines their daily tasks and responsibilities.
The Recovery Act Correctional Facilities on Tribal Lands Discretionary Grant Program helps tribes build and renovate correctional facilities for juvenile and adult offenders who are subject to tribal jurisdiction, according to the audit. It also lets the tribes seek alternatives to curb jail overcrowding due to alcohol and other substance abuse.
CCT used the funds to build the Chippewa Cree Tribal Justice Center, which will house adult corrections, juvenile detention and law-enforcement departments, according to the audit. The Bureau of Indian Affairs told the tribe that its current adult detention facility was “poor” and in need of “renovation,” according to a June 2010 report by the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General.
Auditors found that CCT had internal controls and guidelines in place to prepare accurate and timely financial reports.
“However, we found that CCT did not have detailed procedures outlining systematic instructions for most grant fund administration processes such as performing bank reconciliations and accounts payable,” the report stated.
Auditors noted that while visiting the audit site they were told documents were unavailable because the “assigned employee” was not present.
Auditors also said there was a $219 difference between the $7,886,643 drawn down and the $7,886,862 spent. They recommend that the Office of Justice Programs take steps to “ensure drawdowns submitted by CCT are accurate and properly supported.”
The approved total budget for the grant was $13.7 million, with $1.3 million coming from CCT.
Since February 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has paid out more than $1.2 billion in 2,293 total awards in Montana and created 1,043 jobs, according to its website. Nationwide, it has paid more than $768 billion and created 154,600 jobs.
However, the act has come under criticism. In an August 2010 report, “Summertime Blues: 100 Stimulus Projects That Give Taxpayers the Blues,” two lawmakers said the program was only putting the country deeper in debt.
The study’s authors, U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and John McCain, R-Ariz., said: “Eighteen months since the law’s passage, millions of jobs are still gone and the economy is as uncertain as ever. The only thing getting a boost is our national debt — the stimulus has helped push it 23 percent higher, to $13.2 trillion, a new record.”
Contact Phil Drake at firstname.lastname@example.org or (406) 442-4561.