Bureau of Indian Affairs Funded 'Non-Existent' Fish Hatchery for 14 Years

By Pete Winn | August 13, 2012 | 7:04pm EDT

Fish hatchery. (Photo: U.S. Dept. of Interior)

(CNSNews.com) - The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs funded a non-existent fish hatchery for 14 years.

“For 14 years, BIA funded a nonexistent fish hatchery,” Mary Kendall, acting inspector general of the Department of Interior, told the House Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations in April of last year.

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“Our investigation confirmed that for 14 years the BIA funded a hatchery that never hatched a single fish,” she re-iterated.

Kendall did not name the hatchery, or its location, or how much money went to the project, or whether anyone was held accountable for it.

In her written testimony, however, Kendall added: “BIA continued to fund the hatchery even after a superintendent visited the Reservation and saw that that the hatchery site had been converted into office space and after the superintendent was notified that the former Tribal Chairperson had spent BIA-provided funds, including those meant for the Tribe’s Fisheries Management Program, towards the purchase of real estate. Funding for the hatchery finally stopped in late 2006 when BIA’s Regional Office learned of the situation.”

The Department of Interior's Office of the Inspector General would not provide CNSNews.com with details about the case or its investigation of it. The office instructed CNSNews.com to file a federal Freedom of Information Act request if it wanted more information than the sketchy description of the 14-year-long funding of the non-existent hatcher that Kendall gave the subcommittee.

According to Kendall's testimony, mismanagement and abuse of taxpayer money at BIA is extensive.

For instance, she told Congress, her office had determined that Indian Affairs paid out over $2.4 million for an airport and roads improvement project that the agency couldn’t account for.

“As a result of our investigation, we estimate that $1.6 million had been expended on a non-specified road maintenance project and that as much as $200,000 may have been overbilled by a sub-contractor,” the inspector general said.

“We were unable to determine the actual percentage of work completed on the project or the disposition of the remaining funds due to a lack of project oversight and funds accountability by the awarding office,” the federal auditor said.

The project wasn't suspended until the inspector general launched an investigation.

Kendall, a former prosecutor, said that the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not pursue legal action to recover the funds “because of BIA’s lack of due diligence in administering the original project, and its contribution to the failure of the project and misuse of its funding.”

The acting IG, meanwhile. also said that BIA had mismanaged a $9 million ferry boat project in Alaska – funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation -- that was supposed to be “a high-speed car and passenger ferry to operate between Homer, Seldovia, Jacolof Bay and Halibut Cove on the Kachemak Bay.”

Instead, the inspector general said the ferry “turned into a private boat tour”

Last week, President Obama nominated Kevin Washburn, dean of the University of New Mexico Law School, to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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