Nearly $14M of your tax dollars was put in the hands of a Nebraska/Iowa Indian tribe and is now missing. According to the Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Omaha Tribe mismanaged $14M in FEMA Disaster grants. The funds were given to the tribe by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after a Missouri River flood in 2011.
The Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with the OIG recently issued a report that found “serious and pervasive” accounting problems within the tribe. Apparently, the tribe’s bookkeeping system was “so unreliable and in such disarray” that the OIG could account for only about one hundred thousand dollars of the $14M.
As a result, government auditors are recommending that FEMA keep any future monies out of tribal hands. Quite simply they described the Omaha Tribe as a “high-risk grantee.”
High risk may be an understatement. We are looking at shoddy accounting and perhaps even outright theft of taxpayer money. The OIG auditors said, “The Omaha Tribe’s serious financial management weaknesses combined with inadequate and missing documentation resulted in unreliable financial records. As a result, we have little confidence that the transactions recorded in the accounting system actually occurred…”
How Much Damage?
Even the Bureau of Indian Affairs sanctioned the Omaha Tribe in the past, but apparently, FEMA paid it no mind and handed over a cool $14M anyway. Supposedly 11 homes, one gas station, and a Casino were damaged in the flood. The tribe only has 5,194 people listed as members. Divided up that would be $2,695 per person or $1.272,727M per damaged house. Who knows, the Omaha Tribe may want another $14M for the gas station and casino repairs? Talk about take the money and run. Judicial Watch put it bluntly:
“Tribal leaders seem to think they can do whatever they want with taxpayer dollars without accountability. For years the Omaha tribal council has blown off independent audits blasting the tribe’s use of government funds, the DHS IG reveals. Nothing will change if the cash keeps flowing into the derelict tribe’s coffers.”
The audit report contains so many instances of graft and corruption as to be laughable – except it’s not funny. Here are a few head-shaking pearls from the executive memorandum:
- The tribe claimed $37,296 for costs unrelated to the disaster grants
- They paid a $312,282 bonus unrelated to the contract to its tribal-owned project management contractor
- The tribal-owned construction management contractor indirectly paid itself $210,000 through its subcontractor
If you or I had used federal money so unscrupulously we would be headed straight for the Federal Pen.
Stop the Waste!
During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly said he wanted to get rid of waste, fraud, and abuse. This just might hit all three of those categories in a row for BINGO. Sometimes it seems the American taxpayers are being played as chumps – you know — the sucker, the easy target. And the Federal government has become such a behemoth that it’s almost impossible to keep on top of this kind of thing. Good for the OIG for getting to the bottom of it, even though it did take six years.
So, next April 15th when Uncle Sam tells the taxpayer it’s time to pony up, maybe we should all just mosey on over to the Omaha Casino and gamble it away. At least that way we’ll know for sure where it’s gone and perhaps even have a little fun on the side.