OST Today

 

Department of the Interior Office of the Special Trustee

Volume 1, Issue 1

June 1, 2000

 

New Special Trustee Confirmed

Mr. Tom N. Slonaker, of Phoenix, AZ, was recently confirmed as the new Special Trustee for American Indians.

  On May 24, 2000, Mr. Slonaker received a unanimous vote by the United States Senate in favor of his nomination to be the Special Trustee.

  Mr. Slonaker was nominated for the position by the White House in February. On March 22, he offered testimony before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee as the first step in his confirmation process. The Committee unanimously voted in favor of Mr. Slonaker's confirmation and forwarded his nomination to the full Senate for a vote.

  Mr. Slonaker has enjoyed the support of the Intertribal Monitoring Association (ITMA) Board of Directors. In a letter to Senate Committee Chairman Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the ITMA Board members who met Tom were genuinely impressed with his tact, his professionalism, his spirit of candor, and his qualifications for this important position.

  Mr. Slonaker brings over 30 years of banking and investment experience to the position, which he described as a very unique leadership and managerial challenge.

  Mr. Slonaker is looking forward to this new challenge and to the chance to serve American Indian beneficiaries and the country. He concluded his testimony before the Senate committee stating Above all, a trust fiduciary, such as the Special Trustee, recognizes the duty that he or she has to the ultimate customers, the beneficiaries, who in this case are the American Indians.

  In June, Mr. Slonaker will be sworn in as the Special Trustee by Secretary Babbitt.

  Read Mr. Slonaker's complete testimony before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee click here for testimony.

  TFAS Conversion Complete: Over 262,000 IIM Accounts Converted to New Automated Accounting System

  On March 31, 2000, IIM accounts at the final three Regional Offices were converted to the new, automated Trust Fund Accounting System (TFAS). Now accounts in every region have been successfully converted to TFAS, which will greatly improve the credibility and delivery of financial and account information to all account holders.

  The implementation of TFAS at every Regional Office was a project two years in the making, and marks the completion of a major project of the Secretary of the Interior's Trust Management Improvement Project.

  An awards ceremony in appreciation of the tremendous efforts of the OST staff is scheduled for May 25, 2000. Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Assistant Secretary John Berry will attend the ceremony in recognition of this major accomplishment. There also will be a demonstration of the TFAS system for the Secretary.

  The TFAS accounting system is managed by a commercial vendor, SEI Investments, of Oaks, PA. Therefore, receipting, accounting, investment and disbursing capabilities of the system will remain on the cutting-edge as technology develops. The Office of Trust Funds Management will remain responsible for the daily trust fund accounting activities.

  OTFM has been working with DataCom Sciences, Inc. and SEI Investments to make sure that the information entered into the new TFAS system is as accurate and complete as possible. Toward this end, a major effort to clean up account data prior to conversion to TFAS occurred. As discrepancies and duplicate accounts were discovered, modifications were made under strict quality control standards. Ongoing efforts to clean up IIM account data and to obtain missing account documentation continue.

  To date, over 262,000 tribal and IIM accounts have been converted to TFAS, which is operating smoothly. Previously, the Legacy System used 12 independent data bases, one for each BIA region. As a result, account holders who owned land in different areas of the country could have the same type of account in several different data bases.

  Upon conversion to TFAS, each account holder who had the same type of account in separate data bases had these accounts merged into one. Merging these accounts resulted in a decrease in the overall number of accounts from about 300,000 to about 262,000.

  Legislative Update: OST Budget Submitted to Congress, Testimony Offered Before the House and Senate Committees

  Mr. Thomas Thompson, Principal Deputy Special Trustee, offered testimony on behalf of the Office of the Special Trustee supporting the President's Fiscal Year 2001 budget request to Congress for trust reform activities.

  Mr. Thompson appeared before the House Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations on March 8, 2000, and before the Senate Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations on April 4, 2000 to discuss OST's funding priorities for the trust reform effort. At both hearings, Mr. Kevin Gover, Assistant Secretary, Indian Affairs, also testified in support for the budget request for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and for the implementation of the trust responsibilities carried out by BIA.

  A total of $95.1 million is being requested by the Administration in FY 2001 for OST for trust management reforms, slightly above the FY 2000 level. This request provides $58.4 million for the trust management reform activities of OST, BIA and the Office of Hearings and Appeals, and $12.5 million for Indian land consolidation, an increase of $7.5 million over FY 2000.

  These funds will finance progress in the eleven projects outlined in the High Level Implementation Plan (HLIP). The HLIP includes projects aimed at cleaning up trust data across OST and BIA; implementing the Trust Fund Accounting System (TFAS) and the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System (TAAMS); reforming the probate and appraisal programs and eliminating backlogs in these programs; curing decades-old records management deficiencies; improving job performance through targeted, quality training; addressing and solving internal control weaknesses; and developing comprehensive and consistent policies and procedures for trust asset management.

  The testimony was met with support from both the House and the Senate committees. Further action has not yet occurred.


On March 22, 2000 the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs considered and favorably voted on legislation to prevent further fractionation of Indian lands. Senate Bill S. 1586, entitled The Indian Land Consolidation Act Amendments of 2000 was introduced by Chairman Ben Nighthorse Campbell on September 15, 1999. The Indian Affairs Committee is working to schedule a vote on the bill by the full Senate.


Meet the OST Advisory Board

Public Law 103-412, establishing the Office of Special Trustee for American Indians, authorized the Special Trustee to create a nine-member Advisory Board. This Advisory Board provides advice on trust fund matters to the Special Trustee.

  By law, the membership of the board must be composed of account holders, tribal representatives, and individuals with trust fund and financial management knowledge. The current membership of the Board is:

  Ms. Elouise C. Cobell, (Chair)

Blackfeet Tribe (MT):

  Mr. Gregg Bourland

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (SD)

  Mr. Larry Hartwig

Feather River State Bank (CA)

  Mr. Ivan Makil 

Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community (AZ)

  Ms. Susan Masten

Yurok Tribe (CA)

  Mr. Michael Patriarca

Visa International (CA)

  Mr. William D. Snider

CFO Metro Mortgage Securities Co., Inc. (WA)

  Mr. Edward K. Thomas

Central Council Tlingit and Haida (AK)

  Mr. Bobby Whitefeather

Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians (MN)  

New OST Web Site Launched

On April 1, 2000, OST's new and improved web site was launched onto the Internet.

  With support and creative advice of Intelligent Information Solutions LATA, a company located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a new look and feel for the site was developed.

  The first phase of the web site's development has now been completed and provides easy accessibility to posted information and documents. The goal of this initial phase was to facilitate the delivery of information from OST to key stakeholders. These include trust fund account holders, government agencies, tribes and the general public. The information is easy to navigate and can be obtained quickly.

  Future improvements planned for the web site include enhanced searching of the database of IIM account holders for which OST has no current address.

  Daily maintenance of the site will be administered by staff in OST's Office of Trust Litigation Support and Records.

  Tell us what you think about OST's new look on the web by contacting OST at Web_Master@ios.doi.gov.  

Revised HLIP Published March 1, 2000

On March 1, 2000 a revised and updated version of the High Level Implementation Plan (HLIP) was published. This new document describes the progress made in each of the subprojects originally described in the July, 1998 publication. This revision includes additional critical milestones to track the future progress and implementation of each of those subprojects.

  Also published on March 1, 2000, were several documents that were submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, pursuant to Judge Lamberth's order of December 21, 1999 in Elouise Cobell, et. al. vs. Bruce Babbitt, et. al. Judge Lamberth ruled that the Department of the Interior was in breach of its trust responsibilities in four areas. The March 1 documents describe new policies and procedures to bring the Department into compliance in these areas and to: collect missing data on IIM accounts that may be available from outside sources; establish retention periods for trust documents; develop a computer and business systems architecture to carry out trust activities; and provide that staffing needs for trust management functions be met.

  These documents are the first in a series of Quarterly Reports to the Court and are posted under the Trust Reform click here.  

New Trust Principles Released

On April 28, 2000, Secretary Bruce Babbitt issued Secretarial Order No. 3215, Principles for the Discharge of the Secretary's Trust Responsibility.

  These trust principles outline the overarching principles that the Department will apply in the upcoming review of statutes, regulations and internal program guidance governing the management of Indian trust assets.

  The development of these principles is part of the Department's Trust Management Improvement Project, and will assist the Special Trustee in creating and maintaining a trust management system that will operate as an organic whole.

  These principles are intended to give appropriate and useful guidance to each Departmental office and bureau engaged in the discharge of any trust activities as each reviews and, where necessary, revises or establishes its written trust asset management and accounting policies and procedures.

  Following this process, the Department will review the new policies and procedures of the respective offices and bureaus to ensure that they are consistent and thorough.

  A copy of the trust principles can be seen under the Court Documents Tab click here.  

OST Quarterly Newsletter Makes its Debut

This is the first edition of the new, quarterly OST Newsletter. This newsletter is published by the Office of Special Trustee in order to inform account holders and other interested parties about OST's activities and items of interest.

  This newsletter was developed as a way to facilitate information about the Office of the Special Trustee, including the Office of Trust Funds Management (OTFM) and the Office of Trust Litigation Support and Records (OTLSR), to interested parties. It is our goal to keep trust fund account holders informed about improvements and updates to the policies, procedures and processes utilized by OST in the management of their accounts.

  This newsletter also will keep readers informed on the latest activities occurring under the guidance of the Trust Management Improvement Project, including the status of the eleven projects described in the High Level Implementation Plan.

  It is our objective for readers to find this newsletter interesting and informative.

  If you have stories to suggest or comments on items appearing within this newsletter, please contact OST with your ideas and feedback. OST will do its best to answer questions or address concerns voiced by accountholders or other interested parties.

  NAME OUR NEWSLETTER!

OST is sponsoring a contest to name our new quarterly newsletter.

  Come up with a catchy or creative title and send it to us. OST will select a favorite and the rest will be history!

  We'll feature the winner's name and picture in an upcoming edition.

  Mail or fax your nominations to Newsletter Contest to:

  Department of the Interior
Office of the Special Trustee
18th and C Street, NW
Suite 5140
Washington, DC 20240
Attention: Newsletter

  Or contact us on the web at:
webmaster@ost.doi.gov