(WASHINGTON) - Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton today signed two new Secretarial Orders that will improve accountability and efficiency in Indian trust reform activities and set up a new Office of Historical Accounting under the Office of the Secretary.
"I believe that bringing the Department's trust practices into the 21st Century and living up to the fiduciary responsibilities we owe Indian Tribes and trust beneficiaries are critical missions of the Department." Norton said. "In order to be successful, I believe the steps we take today are essential and will focus our approach to the challenges that still lie ahead."
The first Secretarial Order delegates additional authority to the Special Trustee for American Indians to ensure his capacity to implement the Department's High Level Implementation Plan (HLIP) for trust reform and to recommend future revisions or amendments to the Plan. The Special Trustee is also directed to contract with a private financial management consulting firm to provide an assessment of all the Department's trust reform efforts and to make sure that these efforts are moving together in a coordinated fashion and that each is being managed to assure success of the entire project.
The second Secretarial Order creates a new Office of Historical Trust Accounting that will oversee the historical accounting to Individual Indian Money (IIM) beneficiaries mandated by the Court in Cobell v. Norton. The Office will be part of the Office of the Secretary. The initial task of this office will be to develop a comprehensive plan analyzing options for accomplishing the historical accounting, as well as providing timetables for implementation that can be reviewed by the Court, Congress, IIM beneficiaries and the public. Moreover this plan will provide Congress with projected costs so that Congress can decide how best to appropriate funds for this undertaking. Ongoing activities in support of the historical accounting project will continue.
Secretary Norton named Bert T. Edwards as Executive Director of the Office of Historical Trust Accounting. From 1998 until 2001, Edwards served as Chief Financial Officer to the Department of State, an assistant secretary-level position where heoversaw domestic and overseas financial operations for a Department that includes 260 embassies and consulates in 130 countries and more than 21,000 worldwide employees. In this capacity, he also managed a $4 billion annual budget for the overseas expenses of 26,000 foreign service employees from 35 other federal agencies, and administered the Foreign Service Retirement Plan.
From 1970 until 1994, Edwards was an audit partner for Arthur Anderson LLP. Based in their Washington, DC, office he held Firmwide technical responsibility for their federal, state and local governmental accounting and auditing practice and served as their Industry Head for Nonprofit and Higher Education Organizations. He has directed numerous audits for large governmental units including Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia and developed the Uniform Financial Reporting Audit used in Virginia's 140 counties and cities. Edwards was employed by Arthur Anderson LLP from 1961 until his retirement in 1994.
In 1988, he was appointed by the U.S. Comptroller General and has served continuous terms on the Auditing Standards Advisory Council providing recommendations on Government Accounting Standards. He was recently elected Chair of the Board of External Auditors of the Organization of American States. Edwards has played an active role in a large number of civic organizations including the Greater Washington Boys and Girls Clubs Foundation, the Barker Foundation and Junior Achievement of Metropolitan Washington.
"I feel very fortunate to have persuaded a person with such a distinguished background and range of experience to return to public service for the benefit of American Indian trust beneficiaries and the Department of the Interior," Secretary Norton said. "I am confident that he will provide the right leadership for this complex and difficult challenge."
Edwards received a B.A. from Wesleyan University and an M.B.A. from Stanford University. He is a Certified Public Accountant in the District of Columbia and Virginia.