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UTE AUDIT UNCOVERS POSSIBILITY OF FUND MISUSE IN 2 ENTERPRISES

SHARE UTE AUDIT UNCOVERS POSSIBILITY OF FUND MISUSE IN 2 ENTERPRISES

An internal audit into six Ute Tribe enterprises has uncovered possible instances of misuse of tribal and federal funds in two enterprises, as well as possible abuses within the tribe's loan program.

Tribal leaders have turned over documents and audit reports to the U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Inspector General for further review and possible legal action. The paperwork details potential criminal wrongdoing in both Wood Enterprises and Arts and Crafts, according to a letter sent to special agent Don Wiseman.The audit was conducted by Grant Thornton Accounting to perform "a general review of those businesses practices, profitability and expenditures."

Abuses and discrepancies noted in the audit within the tribal loan program will be addressed on an in-house basis by the business committee, according to tribal business committee member Larry Blackhair.

The recently concluded audit reported that in 1995 the Wood Products Enterprise posted a net loss of $398,839, while taking in just $46,095 in revenue through sales.

Wood Products was created last year by the former tribal business committee to build log cabins on tribal land near the Stillwater Dam in Duchesne County in order to increase economic development for the tribe and create new recreational opportunities for tourists.

According to the audit, Wood Products spent $252,926 in salaries and wages for employees; paid out $41,575 in fringe benefits and racked up travel expenses of $19,627. The audit indicates that Wood Products also contracted out $79,279 in "skidding" cost's to individuals who took trees off the mountain to make the log homes; $3,494 was spent in wood costs; and $48,036 were listed in "unknown" expenses.

Wood Products has since been disbanded. Blackhair says it's unknown just how many employees worked in the enterprise.

A "very vague" paper trail relating to the business practices of the Arts and Crafts Enterprise prompted those records to also be turned over to the office of Inspector General for further investigation.

He said there were no improprieties found in Cattle Enterprises and Ute Water Systems, where recordkeeping and administrative accountability was evident. However, transactional audits will be conducted on Ute Lanes and Ute Petroleum.

The tribal administration is in the process of correcting problems uncovered in the tribe's loan program. In one instance, he said, the audit reported a loan of $32,000 to one individual. There were 410 loans of more than $2,000 and approximately 1,500 loans made for amounts of less than $2,000. The loans were all made in 1995. The majority have not been repaid.

Blackhair said the completion of the audit makes good on a campaign promise made by business committee members who took office late last year following months of controversy.

He declined to release any names at this point but said the business committee anticipates releasing an official statement soon.