Associated Press BIA managers say they have fired some employees
WASHINGTON - Bureau of Indian Affairs officials acknowledged Tuesday the agency has a "department-wide problem" with employees misusing and failing to pay bills for their government credit cards.
BIA managers say they have fired some employees, disciplined others and sought criminal charges against a few.
"There is a problem, and it's one that we will not tolerate from the employees," BIA head Kevin Gover told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.
Gover said he did not know how many of the BIA's more than 9,000 employees were issued cards and which misused them. He said he would give that information to the Senate panel later.
The Billings Gazette reported Monday that 13 BIA employees in Montana and Wyoming have been disciplined, and one indicted, for misusing the cards. It also quoted the No. 2 official in the Montana-Wyoming office as saying "virtually everyone" got a card.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., expressed disappointment at the latest problem to befall BIA, which has been plagued by management lapses and has acknowledged mishandling $3 billion in Indian trust funds.
"It seems to me it is not a good policy to issue a credit card" to nearly every BIA worker, he said.
Gover said the agency got credit cards in employees' names to help them pay for travel expenses and office supplies. Paying with a credit card means vendors get their money more quickly, he said.
Employees are supposed to pay their credit card bills with reimbursements from the BIA. Charges for personal items are not allowed, Gover said.
The Office of Special Trustee, a semi-independent subset of the BIA which oversees Indian trust fund reform efforts, has fired some workers for misusing their credit cards, Acting Special Trustee Tommy Thompson told the Senate panel.