Hoeven: Bureau of Indian Education Must Implement Better Financial Oversight, Make Every Dollar Work for Our Native American Students

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee last week, Senator John Hoeven pressed Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) Director Charles “Monty” Roessel to implement better oversight of federal funding for Native American schools run by the agency. Hoeven’s comments came in response to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued last November, which outlined significant deficiencies in financial oversight at BIE, contributing to the misuse and loss of federal funds, inadequate facilities and staff and impaired educational performance. The senator emphasized that BIE must take steps to adopt the report’s recommendations and urged Director Roessel to follow up with the committee as progress is made.

“One of the most important obligations the federal government has to tribes is to provide Native children with a good education,” Hoeven said. “It is vital that BIE officials not only take clear steps to resolve these issues but also report back to Congress on the details and progress of the plan they are following. Doing so will help ensure that BIE acts as a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars and secure a better future for children in our Indian schools.”

The GAO report highlighted how BIE administrators lacked the necessary expertise to properly monitor the schools’ financials, having no written procedures to direct the oversight process. At the same time, the report noted significant financial problems at BIE-run schools, including $13.8 million in unallowable spending at 24 of the 58 schools. This February, Hoeven joined a bipartisan letter to Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, pushing for a detailed plan to address the issues raised by the report.