OST submits annual audit on time for second year in a row
PINE RIDGE – “It really bothers me when people talk about corruption at the Oglala Sioux Tribe,” said Dean Patton who has been the comptroller in the tribe’s fiscal accounting office since 2000, “we’ve come a long ways over the past several years, from having $10 million in dis-allowed costs and adverse auditor judgements to the 2010 and 2011 audits, both clean, submitted on time with no dis-allowed costs.”
There’s not just one thing that changed things around but a culmination of a lot of hard work, making changes and communicating, said both Patton and Mason Big Crow, OST treasurer; a new financial management manual was passed in 2009, the FAO added Casey Petersen, an inhouse CPA to the staff and we changed the way we did things. We worked more closely with the funding agencies, we even asked them to come down and do financial reviews; we did orientations and workshops with the staff and elected officials and we kept stressing that it has to be a team ef- fort, added Big Crow and Patton.
In addition to being on time, the last two audits have been clean, no dis-allowed costs and a minimum of findings. The tribe does get dinged for not having all of the tribe’s operations included in the overall audits but the tribe chooses not to include the casino and chartered entities. The tribe does not want to submit casino information to the feds and chartered organizations are left to complete their own audits with the responsibility to report to the tribal council twice a year.
“We don’t wait until the end of the year to send material to our auditors, McGladrey, we’re scanning and sending them material throughout the year, if they see any problems or potential problem areas, they let us know right away,” said Patton, “having a comptroller helps, so does having an accounts supervisor who is a certified fraud investigator but we also decided to fix the problems ourselves, not hiring outside firms to prepare our financials for an audit or hiring another firm to do an indirect cost budget, we’re doing those inhouse now, saving the expenses and having more control over the financial management.”
In 2000, the Red Cloud building was taken over; between the takeover that lasted a year and a half and financial records being confiscated by the FBI, the tribe struggled to complete audits, creating a high risk situation with funding agencies.
“We really use technology today, we scan everything, whether its federal programs paperwork or district service center expenditures,” said Casey Petersen, the tribe’s account supervisor who has a CPA and a masters in accounting and has worked in 15 different states with tribal accounts and programs before working on the OST audit in 2008 and coming to work for the tribe’s FAO in 2009, “we’ve really used technology over the past three years, it has helped us with better record retention, with required documentation and managing the finances; we work on staying up with the new technology advances so we can do the job better.”
“One of the things that really turned things around, especially when we had so much in dis-allowed costs, we were able to set up an alternative dispute resolution negotiations with our funding agencies to help us resolve audit findings and dis-allowed costs,” said Patton, “we’ve worked with the BIA, IHS, BOR, Dept. of Justice, EPA and SAMSA and the Bureau lifted the high risk status in 2010.”
Sure, the tribe gets complaints about the amount of travel expenses accumulated by elected officials but that is up to the governing body, added both Bid Crow and Patton, all we can do is make sure each travel expense is documented and accounted for; we require all travel reports and expense documentation to be turned in within 30 days, if it is not, we send the expense down to payroll to have it taken out of the traveler’s paycheck.
“We knew it was going to take a lot of hard work, that we would need to continue the regular trainings, workshops and orientations to keep it going,” said both Patton and Big Crow, ”and we stress it is a team effort, it involves everyone in the fiscal accounting office to make it happen.”
On Friday, each staff member was honored for their work; those honored included: Mason Big Crow, treasurer, Dean Patton, comptroller, Cheryl Whistler, office manager, Kay Ann Janis, asst. office manager, Maretta Champagne, assist office manager, Jessica Big Crow, assistant treasurer, Chalane Janis, asst. office manager, Toni Montileaux, payroll accountant, Roseanne Ladeaux, payroll supervisor, payroll techs Helen Hinton, Sharon Respects Nothing, Cathy Bianis, Anna Brings Him Back/accounts payable supervisor, Lafawn Conroy, travel clerk, Jamie Palmier, accounts payable, accountants Stacy Shedeed, Ben Smith, Pete Fills the Pipe, Gilbert Mesteth, Priscilla Hill, Florence Benson and Kathy Eagle Elk, John Dubray, bank reconciliation, Casey Petersen, account supervisor and Cheryl Twiss, switchboard; Property and supply- Doreen Two Bulls, director, Robbie White Eyes, Courtney Twiss, Chris Witt, Robert Hernandez, Orren Provost, Irving Provost, Jr., Darrel Trueblood, Marvin Ghost Bear, Jr. and Thomas Brings; Revenue-Robert Palmier, director, Sharon Cuny, Shanna Red Feather, Tess Chase In Sight and Marcie Whalen; Records Retention-Francine Broken Nose, Sissy Jo Bean and Heather Kindle.