Interior seeks help in Indian trust
- By Megan Lisagor
- Feb 21, 2002
Interior Department RFP
The Interior Department issued a request for proposals Feb. 21 for the development
and implementation of a plan to conduct a historical accounting of individual
American Indian trust accounts.
Vendors have until March 8 to respond to the RFP, which calls for the
contractor to lend long-term support, analysis and expert advice from the
perspective of handling a large commercial trust operation. The contract
is expected to last three years.
The RFP came the same day the contempt trial of Interior Secretary Gale
Norton ended in U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth's court.
A group of American Indians filed a class action lawsuit in 1996 alleging
that mismanagement has made it impossible for landowners and their descendants
to determine the balances in their accounts.
About 11 million acres are held in trust or restricted status for individual
American Indians and nearly 45 million are held for tribes, according to
Interior. The plaintiffs estimate there is as much as $10 billion in lost
or missing funds.
In 1999, the court directed the agency to initiate a historical accounting
project. Norton and Neal McCaleb, assistant secretary and director of the
Bureau of Indian Affairs, face five contempt charges that include failure
to comply with the order.
In July, Norton established the Office of Historical Trust Accounting
to take charge of the matter.
OHTA, which issued the RFP, also has released a "Blueprint for Developing
the Comprehensive Historical Accounting Plan for Individual Indian Money
Accounts" and a "Report Identifying Preliminary Work for the Historical
Accounting." The office is also working on a comprehensive plan to present
to Congress for approval and long-term funding.
Interior requested a $9 million increase for accounting in its budget
for fiscal 2003, but a full reconciliation is likely to cost hundreds of
millions of dollars, Norton testified at a Feb. 6 hearing before the House
"I do know [of] situations where the documents that existed no longer
exist," she further testified Feb. 13 at her trial.
Meanwhile, much of Interior remains off-line since Lamberth ordered
the department to disconnect from the Internet in December after a computer
security firm broke into its systems.
However, the Bureau of Land Management's site (www.blm.gov) came back online this week.