Federal auditor: Crow Tribe misplaced almost $13M of water-system money

Posted at 3:28 PM, Oct 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-03 17:28:37-04

WASHINGTON, D.C.- The Crow Tribe of south-central Montana misused $12.8 million in federal grants designed to improve tribal water systems, the Department of Interior said in an audit released Tuesday.

Of this total, $4.8 million was for unallowable costs, $7.8 million for costs that aren’t accounted for and $246,000 for missing equipment, auditors for the agency’s Inspector General Office said.

Tribal spokesman Jared Stewart said Tuesday night that tribal attorneys are preparing a statement in response to the audit.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation awarded the tribe the money in question through under Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. The money was aimed at rehabilitating the Crow Irrigation Project and building a municipal, rural and industrial water system.

The first 10-year contract was awarded in September 2011 and expires September 2021. The second contract started in August 2012 and ends in September 2012.

Auditors reviewed the contract payments from Oct. 1, 2014, through March 31, 2017.

Auditors also traveled to the reservation to account for the 28 vehicles the tribe listed on its books. Auditors said they could not find five pickup trucks, two trailers, and one SUV, which totaled $246,000 in value. Tribal officials said they did not know where the vehicles were.

It’s the second time in five months the Crow Tribe has been dinged in a federal audit. In June, Interior’s inspector general office stated the tribe couldn’t account for $14.5 million in federal transportation grants.

In that case, tribal officials noted the mismanagement occurred during a previous administration. Also, the contractor managing the tribe’s financial department was let go in July 2017 to cut costs.

Auditors in this most recent report noted that cuts to the tribe’s finance department accounted for some but not all of the misplaced money.

-Erik Olson reporting for MTN News