Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rep. Mary Bono Mack Says Torrez Martinez Tribe; Will Pechanga be Next?

Rep. Mary Bono Mack on Thursday said she intends to work to strip control of a tribal welfare program from the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, citing persistent evidence of waste and missing accountability for taxpayer funds.

“They've lost the ability to administer this program,” Bono Mack said of the Torres-Martinez, a tribe of approximately 445 members with a reservation southeast of the Coachella Valley along State Highway 86 and the Salton Sea's western shore. “They've lost the credibility to administer the program.”

Bono Mack on Wednesday wrote the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General, expressing her concern and seeking clarification on a number of points related to the tribal welfare program

See Desert Sun Story HERE

The Desert Sun Investigation finds:

The Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program's required audits have outlined serious negative findings each year since 2002, with many of the same issues persisting for years despite tribal assurances that fixes were in place or on the way.

The Desert Sun analysis of the audits revealed:

The federal government in 2005 found that the program potentially “misused” more than $6 million in taxpayer money in fiscal years 2002 and 2003.

Program officials were able to justify some of the spending, but agreed in 2007 to pay a penalty of more than $1.5 million as a result of misuse of welfare funds.

“As of December 2008 the tribe is not in compliance with the terms of the agreement,” the tribe's auditor stated in September 2009.

Year after year, how much money the program has on hand, how much it has spent or whether spending followed federal laws and program rules often could not be verified because of the “inaccurate,” “misstated” or incomplete financial records of the tribal program.

More than $50,000 in undocumented credit card expenditures by program administrators, most carrying late fees and interest penalties.

The Torres-Martinez tribal welfare program purchased 45 cars for use by 90 employees and then failed to track where the cars were or how they were being used.

OP: Isn't it PAST time that the citizens of California get to see how the tribes handle their finances? They get a monopoly on gaming and as we told you last year, the Propositions would let them audit their own books and then tell us it was okay. We need accountablility and we need our elected officials to watch out for us. We won't be able to count on Jerry Brown, he takes so much money from tribes he can't be looking out for the people of California.

THANK YOU Rep. Bono Mack!
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