Poor training puts Indian trust fund accounting at risk

The Interior Department still has not trained employees properly on how to handle Indian trust records, putting the agency's trust fund accounting system at further risk, according to a new report.

Training on how to manage trust records is sporadic and fails to offer Interior employees practical and comprehensive guidance on how to adequately identify and archive trust documents, concluded Alan Balaran in an investigative report on the agency's effort to improve training on trust recordkeeping. Balaran is overseeing a six-year-old lawsuit involving the government's management of individual trust accounts for Indians.

"In the final analysis, the Office of Trust Records curricula add to the grievous perception that trust records deserve no more special care than an agency personnel file, a payroll record or a requisition for paper clips," the report said.

Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs handles roughly 300,000 trust accounts and is responsible for sending checks to Indian trust beneficiaries. Beneficiaries rely on trust funds for basic living necessities. Allegations of mismanagement of the BIA trust accounting system have plagued the agency for years, culminating in a 1996 lawsuit filed against Interior by Elouise Cobell, founder and current chair of the Blackfeet National Bank.

Nearly three years ago, the agency pledged to work with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to improve training for employees who maintain trust documents. Balaran reviewed the Interior Department's quarterly and monthly reports on improving trust fund management for his investigation of the agency's training program.

Since 2000, Interior and NARA have provided training on trust fund recordkeeping to thousands of agency employees, but the briefings have not been mandatory and rarely focus specifically on handling trust documents, Balaran said. The curriculum has tended to focus on the organizational structure of the Office of Trust Records and policies on federal recordkeeping in general, "but not on the critical requirements unique to trust recordkeeping," according to Balaran.

One 85-page training manual on recordkeeping prepared by the Office of Trust Records devoted only nine pages to trusts and trust records, Balaran's report said, while a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation prepared by NARA mentioned trust records only twice. Training materials prepared by the Office of Trust Records failed to include a definition of trust records, Balaran said. And the Interior Department's periodic status reports issued between November 2000 and 2002 did not mention trust fund training for employees at all.

The Interior Department did not return phone calls about Balaran's report.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.