Government Admits Big Problems in Fixing $500 Million Indian Trust System : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Mar 2, 2000 - 05:40 PM

Government Admits Big Problems in Fixing $500 Million Indian Trust System

By Matt Kelley Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Interior Department says it will take much longer than anticipated to come up with a computer system to properly manage a $500 million trust system for American Indians, meaning more financial uncertainty for many of the 300,000 account holders.

In a court-ordered report, the agency said a $60 million computer system to track account information has run into such severe development problems there no longer is a timetable to have it up and running nationwide.

Original plans had called for the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System, or TAAMS, to be available by the end of this year, and agency officials consistently have said the project was on schedule.

Rex Hackler, a spokesman for Bureau of Indian Affairs, did not return calls Thursday.

The report also said efforts to collect all of the records related to the accounts and check their accuracy have run into roadblocks and will not be finished until 2003, and attempts to draft policies and procedures for handling the trust system will not be done until 2004.

"We're left once again with the feeling of empty promises," Keith Harper, a Cherokee lawyer representing account holders, said Thursday.

The trust funds hold proceeds from leases for grazing, logging and oil drilling on Indian land. They were set up as part of a since-rejected federal policy to divide reservations into small plots held in trust for individual Indians.

A group of Indians sued the federal government in 1996, claiming the accounts have been mismanaged. Their lawyers say they plan to seek more than $10 billion to compensate for lost revenue.

Last December, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth gave the federal government "one last opportunity" to correct more than a century of mismanagement of the trust funds. He ordered periodic updates and the Interior Department issued the first report on Wednesday.

The agency previously has acknowledged its record-keeping is so poor it's unclear how much money should be in each trust account and that it does not have current addresses for more than 46,000 account holders. But it insisted efforts to correct the problem were on schedule.

Harper said the problems outlined in the agency report mean that account holders face "continued uncertainty about whether they're getting the right amount. They're going to continue to lose money with a broken system."

-- Carl Jenkins (, March 03, 2000


Carl, your instincts were right when you posted this "system problem." Not only were funds mismanaged, but computer glitches compound the problem. This may turn out to be a Y2k-compliant software problem.....

An unidentified woman stands next to boxes of American Indian trust fund documents, stacked against the wall in a storage shed on the Fort Totten reservation in North Dakota, in this November, 1999 file photo.

For the first time, the Interior Department has admitted fundamental problems with a $60 million computer system meant to help (fix) $500 million in mismanaged trust funds for American Indians. The computer glitches, as well as severe problems with record-keeping for the 300,000 accounts, will delay by several years the final remedy for the Indian account holders, the department said in documents filed with a federal court.

Photo by Alan Balaran, File (AP)

-- Lee Maloney (, March 08, 2000.

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