Indian Programs

Tribal Influence in Formulating Budget Priorities Is Limited Gao ID: RCED-91-20 February 7, 1991

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) Indian Priority System (IPS) budget formulation process, focusing on the: (1) development and implementation of the IPS process; (2) level of tribal involvement and influence in setting IPS budget priorities; (3) extent to which tribes contracted with BIA to carry out programs; and (4) concerns tribes had regarding the IPS process.

GAO found that: (1) the BIA budget has averaged about $1 billion annually over the past 10 years, with the operation of Indian programs budget component averaging about $850 million a year and the IPS process averaging about $275 million annually; (2) BIA changed various IPS programs based on administrative decisions or legislative directives without notifying area offices or tribes; (3) BIA could not explain why its current guidance provided tribes with a lesser role than earlier guidance in setting IPS budget priorities and funding levels; (4) tribal involvement in the IPS process varied depending on the tribes' relationship with BIA, changes in tribal leadership, and political situations at the tribes' reservations; (5) although tribes exercised some control over budget formulation for contracted programs, they characterized their overall IPS involvement as inconsequential; (6) tribes were particularly concerned about the lack of adequate federal funding for their needs; and (7) BIA and tribal officials often cited federal trust responsibilities as a factor limiting tribal involvement in the IPS process.


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