College resources may help settle Pine Ridge problems

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KYLE, S.D. - The resources of Oglala Lakota College may provide a means to solve problems on the Pine Ridge Reservation, says college President Tom Short Bull.

During an hour-long interview on KILI radio, Short Bull said the college is ready to provide mediation and financial planning assistance to the tribal council and departments. "The college must be a service to the people.

"The problems we have today are all the result of indirect cost."

He explained what the tribal treasurer has done with the indirect cost is unethical. What is indirect is everything that does not go into providing direct services. In the case of the college, the president doesn't provide instruction nor does the business office, he said. These are all part of the indirect cost.

"If you do not limit your indirect cost to the absolute minimum, that's where you get into trouble. At our college we have provided only the absolute minimum for indirect cost."

The problem is that indirect costs are never all recovered. Where the tribe got into trouble is it thought if there was a higher indirect cost rate, they could do whatever they wanted. This tacks on extravagant and unethical expenses, he said.

"It does two things. It gives you a higher indirect cost rate, which people like to have, but you should really have a smaller cost rate. What has happened with the tribe is ? tribe has indirect cost expenses of $1.5 million - that's a ball park figure. They only recover $1 million, so that means they are in a deficit of $500,000.

He said the tribe has to go to the general fund to recover the over expenditure, but if the general fund is over extended, the tribe goes further and further in debt. "That's where this tribe has gotten into trouble. They have an extravagant and unethical indirect cost expenses."

Short Bull said the treasurer claims it is legal to pay vehicle maintenance for each council person and other staff members. To Short Bull, it is marginally legal, "but it's clearly unethical."

Each council member receives $500 per month for vehicle expenses.

He said the college would prepare an indirect cost plan and a financial plan for the tribe and get it back in the right direction in two years.

Short Bull said tribal members must help in the process. He said the mentality of expecting help from the tribe must be changed. The tribe, he added, could go into receivership or bankruptcy.

"People have to realize they have to pull back. If we can't manage our finances we are not a sovereign nation."

Before the college will get involved in mediation or financial planning, the council, President Harold Salway and the Grass Roots Oyate will have to make a request.

Upheaval on the reservation has had its effect on programs. A summer youth opportunities program is in limbo, he said. The Public Safety Circle Program is in jeopardy and Short Bull said the college would be willing to take over administration of the program finances.

The White House admitted April 17 that funds for a new youth center are being held pending resolution of the reservation's political problems. On the day the president visited the Navajo Reservation, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Maria Echaveste said members and tribal officials asked for a youth center to help alleviate problems on the reservation. She said the plans are ready, but are being withheld.

Short Bull's advice for tribal government was to make council positions part-time. That would allow qualified people who have jobs and careers to participate in the government. He also suggested workshops should be provided to help people deal with ethical activities in public service.

"There is too much dysfunction. The impasse hasn't hurt the college yet, but it's embarrassing," Short Bull said.