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Audit shows $1 million excess billings by tribe

Updated:
A federal audit has questioned more than
$1 million paid to the Cherokee Nation for operating its Tahlequah job corps center, U.S. Rep. Tom Coburn said.

Coburn, R-Okla., said most of the money for Talking Leaves, the job corps center, was for the recovery of "indirect cost" for services that either did not benefit the center or for which it
paid directly.

"This is one more example of the mismanagement of the Cherokee Nation," said Coburn, who requested the audit.

Principal Chief Chad Smith did not dispute the audit, which was conducted by the inspector general of the Department of Labor.

But Smith, who recently took over tribal leadership, pointed out that the audit began under a previous administration that had
"inadequate management policies," he said.

The audit questioned more than $1.05 million paid to the Cherokee Nation for operating Talking Leaves during a five-year period ending June 30, 1998. It indicated inventory items worth $27,520 were missing, Coburn said.

"I hope the new administration will straighten out the finances and management procedure not only at Talking Leaves but in all the
Cherokee operations," he said Thursday.

The latest audit did not find any criminal wrongdoing, just incompetence, according to Coburn's office.

"The integrity of the management system has been our top priority," Smith said. "The inspector general reports will assist with administration efforts to ensure timely and satisfactory resolution of all issues identified in these audits."



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