WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today convened an oversight hearing to evaluate progress and efforts in addressing the Government Accountability Office’s recommendations for high-risk Indian health, education and energy programs.
In February, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) added federal Indian health, education and energy programs to their list of programs in need of serious reform. Senator Hoeven called for a follow-up hearing after an initial hearing in May revealed that many of the GAO’s recommendations remained unimplemented by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and the Indian Health Service (IHS).
“These high-risk programs put the health and safety of Native Americans at risk,” Hoeven said. “By implementing the GAO recommendations, the risks identified should be diminished and the affected agencies should be strengthened in delivering programs and services to Native Americans.”
In her testimony, Melissa Emrey-Arras, director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues for GAO, said that although Interior and HHS have taken some steps to address these recommendations, 49 recommendations still remain open.
Rear Admiral Michael D. Weahkee, acting director of the IHS, reported that the agency has made progress in their efforts to improve quality of care and is providing GAO with additional documentation to close seven of fourteen outstanding recommendations. The GAO has determined one recommendation regarding improving IHS facility wait times has been implemented.
“IHS is committed to addressing all risks impacting our ability to carry out our agency mission,” Weahkee commented.
“There is still more work to be done by the agencies,” Hoeven concluded. “However, I am encouraged by recent updates from the GAO that these agencies are making progress in satisfying the recommendations.”
Hoeven said that the committee will have another follow-up hearing to gauge progress in six months.
The hearing also featured testimony from Mr. Michael S. Black, acting assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior and Mr. Tony Dearman, Director of the Bureau of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of the Interior.
For more information on their testimonies click here.