The Indian Health Service continues to lose property at an alarming rate, according a new Government Accountability Office report, which says the IHS managements failure to implement the GAOs earlier recommendations has contributed significantly to the agencys ongoing problems.
From October 2007 through January 2009, about 1,400 items worth about $3.5 million were lost or stolen in the agency, which is in addition to the losses that the GAO revealed in a report last year. In a June 2008 report and July 2008 testimony we revealed gross mismanagement of property and waste at IHS, including the loss or theft of 5,000 computers and other property worth $15.8 million, the GAO said in a letter to congressional leaders, including Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senates Committee on Indian Affairs.
The GAO made 10 recommendations to the IHS, and called for the director of IHS to strengthen IHSs overall control environment and tone at the top " by fully implementing its suggestions while also updating and enforcing its policies and procedures. The GAO said IHS has made limited progress in implementing those suggestions. For example, IHS has taken some steps to update its personal property management policy, but it still needs to address gaps, such as establishing local receiving and inspection procedures, and finalizing national inventory management policy in consultation with region staff. In addition, the GAO said, IHS could provide only one example of an individual who was held financially liable for lost or stolen property during a one-year period.
According to the GAO report, the IHS said it is committed to proper and accountable property management. The agency also said it is confident that most, if not all, inventory currently unaccounted for will be identified as a result of implementing the property management information system, or PMIS. In its recommendations, the GAO urged the IHS to enforce the use of the PMIS to create reliable inventory records.