Sneak Preview: Interior, BIE Aim To Improve Expenditure Oversight

December 4, 2014 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from an article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) The Department of the Interior (DOI) plans to develop written procedures for its Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) staff to better oversee expenditures within its major grant programs, in response to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommendation.

BIE oversees 185 schools on or near Indian reservations in 23 states. The schools generally are funded through Interior grant programs, although they also receive grants from the Department of Education (ED). In fiscal year 2014, the schools received about $830 million in funding, about 75 percent of which came from DOI and 24 percent from ED (the remaining funds came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies).

GAO found that BIE lacks sufficient staff to oversee school expenditures. Since 2011, the number of BIE full-time administrators located on or near Indian reservations to oversee such expenditures has decreased from 22 to 13, due partially to budget cuts. Along with overseeing and evaluating school expenditures, these administrators are responsible for ensuring that tribally operated schools submit their annual single audits; approving or disapproving questioned costs in tribally operated schools’ single audits; working with tribes to ensure single audit findings are resolved; and collaborating with BIE’s Division of Performance and Accountability, which oversees its ED-funded programs, to identify schools that may need additional oversight because the schools failed to comply with ED program requirements.

“The 13 administrators have many additional responsibilities and an increased workload, making it challenging for them to provide effective oversight of schools,” GAO said. “Although BIE officials reported in September 2013 that eliminating [full-time] positions would create problems if appropriate plans are not developed and implemented, the agency has not developed a plan for meeting its workforce needs.”

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