Bureau of Indian Affairs Commonly Blows Money on Illegal Leases, Says Inspector General

OfficeThe Bureau of Indian Affairs,
it seems, has trouble following the rules when leasing, to the
extent that it blows tens of millions of dollars on property that
it doesn’t need, or that was acquired in violation of one or more
rules. The problem is so widespread that the Department of the
Interior found problems with every single lease examined in a
recent Inspector General’s report. That report was only a sample of
the BIA’s activity, so the problem just may be a bit more

The BIA’s taste for blowing rental agreements was first noted by
the General Services Administration, which is sort of the federal
goverment’s office manager. The GSA referred the problem to the
Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General, with
much astonishment to ensue.

From the
Inspector General

OIG sampled 14 BIA leases identified in the GSA report and found
issues with all of them. These issues resulted from noncompliance
with GSA guidelines to insufficient BIA guidance and inadequate
training. We found leases extended without GSA approval, leases
exceeding GSA square footage limits, leases established by
individuals without qualifications to do so, and contracting
officers who did not follow guidelines. BIA’s inability to
accurately report all lease data back to GSA also made it
impossible for GSA to analyze post-lease performance data for the
BIA leases we reviewed. BIA expended more than $32 million for
leases that exceeded GSA space limits and leasing requirements.

Yes, $32 million is barely walking-around money for a government
that turns wealth into ashes in billion-dollar lots. But
every lease the OIG scrutinized in its sample had somehow
been screwed up.

Two of the problematic properties were rented by a BIA
superintendent in Montana who had no authority to sign contracts
and who never reported the deal to the BIA’s central office, so the
Bureau had no idea these facilities existed, even as it paid for
them. In other cases, the BIA spent well beyond what it was allowed
without specific congressional authorization.

In slap-on-the-wrist fashion, the Inspector General recommended
the BIA:

  1. Develop and implement policies and procedures that ensure
    compliance with GSA guidance.
  2. Develop a database accurately reflecting the status of leases
    in BIAs inventory and,
  3. Ensure BIA contracting officers receive appropriate training in
    lease administration and management.

That’s right, almost two centures after its founding,
the Bureau of Indian Affars still hasn’t got a handle on
acquiring property the right way. Then again, it doesn’t just take
it any more; it overpays instead. Which is something of an

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