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Study Finds Incompetence, Negligence: Dept's Operations In Total Disarray

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1977      v07 n04 p09  
The department of Indian affairs' planning, budgeting and financial control systems are in "total disarray," according to a report of the FSl's task force secretariat.

Presented to the All-Chiefs' Conference in April, the report concludes the department perennially fails to provide adequate funds for even those programs for which it has made previous definite commitments.

The consequences of this "gross negligence in the provision of finances" are repeated conflict with Indian bands, a serious staff morale problem, the evaporation of badly needed development money and an increased centralization of authority in regional and Ottawa offices, the report states.

The Phoenix Building
The Phoenix Building, which houses the Saskatoon district offices of the department of Indian Affairs. An FSI task force report has found budgeting and financial procedures for the entire Saskatchewan region to be in "total disarray".

The report is based on a memorandum sent to FSI Chief Dave Ahenakew by Doug McArthur, the task force's planning co-ordinator and a former deputy minister of the department of northern Saskatchewan.

Although the department admits to having a serious problem, at an Ottawa meeting of regional directors of operations aimed at resolving it, "I was appalled to discover that they apparently have no workable idea of how to go about it," McArthur wrote.

"In my opinion, the department does not have the talent and competence internally to straighten out the mess they are currently in."

On the basis of program commitments already made, the Saskatchewan Indian affairs region is starting the 1977-78 fiscal year with an operating and maintenance budget which is deficient by $17 million, according to the report.

The deficiency is consistent budget performances of previous years. In 1971-72 the difference between the original operating budget for the region and the actual expenditure was $1.9 million. It reached a projected $11.4 million in 1976-77

The deficit suggested by these figures is reduced by additional budget appropriations during the fiscal year, but in spite of these the region has recorded a deficit in every year since 1971-72.

The actual deficit was $1.9 million in 1972-73, climbed as high as $5 million in 1974-75 and is projected to reach $3.6 million in 1976-77.

Because few new programs have been introduced during the last six years, the formulation of the budget should have been "a relatively simple costing problem," the report said.

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Study Finds Incompetence, Negligence: Dept's Operations In Total Disarray

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1977      v07 n04 p10  
"Program managers should have been confident that budget allotments would be sufficient to meet program obligations. (But) our review of the records shows clearly that costing has been incredibly inaccurate." Managers are then faced annually with the difficult decision of either reducing program commitments of overspending their budgeted allotments, the report states. "Pressure invariably comes from headquarters to do the former."

As such items as department staff salaries are binding under contract, the primary target of "program cuts, diversion of funds and unfulfilled commitments, will be the bands and individuals," the report says.

The "so-called discretionary areas" in which managers reduce programs commitments "turn out to be areas such as care of adults and children, post-school education and band administered projects for which there is a critical need."

But according to the report, harmful effects of negligent financing are felt not only among the bands, but also among the staff of the department.

Faced with budget allocations insufficient to meet commitments "managers and staff in the region become frustrated and cynical," the report states, "Competent people either leave or become cynical, while the inc6mpetent people remain and consolidate their hold on the more senior positions. The overall competence of the staff ,in the region thus tends to be on the continuous decline."

The report also criticizes the practice of carrying the past year's deficits into the new fiscal year. "This unbudgeted first claim on the next year's allotments . . . simply aggravates an already bad situation."

To reduce expected deficits central autonomy replaces good management, it states.

"For instance in January, 1977, all decentralized authorities for payment requisitions were suspended and transferred to the finance section of regional office, despite repeated assurances by senior departmental management that these authorities have all been decentralized to districts. Furthermore, controls exercised over expenditures become so detailed and inflexible as to make effective developmental programming impossible."

The high degree of centralization is made worse by "confused" and "conflicting" lines of authority within the department and "a top-heavy administrative structure," the report says.

"Out of a total man-year allotment of 881, less than 50 man-years are actually devoted to developmental support to bands. This amounts to less than one person per band."

The findings of the Task Force report have prompted Chief Dave Ahenakew to ask the Chiefs for a private meeting where means of straightening out the mess in the Department of Indian Affairs can be proposed. "We need a massive change within the department, a 180 degree turn, so we can do the type of work that needs to be done," said Chief Ahenakew.

Ahenakew said, "we have two choices if we want to straighten out this mess. We'll have to start hammering away at the politicians or we can apply pressure to get the type of people we require to straighten out the mess and it can be done."