2014 audit examined Narragansett tribe’s spending of federal funds

Photo: Marcos Valentin | WPRI-TV

CHARLESTOWN, RI (WPRI) — An audit of the Narragansett Indian’s 2014 spending of millions of dollars in federal funds questioned how spending was accounted for, but its significance varies depending on which faction of the tribe is asked.

Medicine man John Brown called it routine, saying the tribe checks the way it spends money on a regular basis.

But a number of members of the tribal council that was elected last summer said while the audit is two years old, it is the most recent examination of how the Narragansetts’ spend money and could be an indicator of budget issues.

The audit examined 65 federal expenditure disbursements totaling $2.7 million.

“Control procedures that are not operating effectively and/or consistently could result in unauthorized expenditures which are unallowed,” the audit stated.

The audit also said in some occasions “tribal management and finance personnel failed to ensure that expenditures were approved prior to payment.”

According to the audit “25 disbursements were not signed by the Finance Director.”

The audit also looked into travel expenses, indicating that 10 expenditures were tested and in all 10 cases the costs were not supported by an approved travel request form.

Matthew Thomas, the Narragansett’s longtime chief until he was possibly impeached in October, said last week that the tribe’s annual budget is about $7.5 million. Thomas and Brown dispute the validity of the impeachment and the council that made the vote.

Chastity Machado, who’s been elected to the tribal council twice since 2014 with both elections determined to be illegal, has said the tribe faces a $2.5 million deficit. If true, that would amount to a third of what Thomas said is the annual budget.

Brown said he did not know whether or not there is a budget deficit.

Last week, federal authorities from the Department of the Interior seized documents and computers from the administration building during a sit-in by a tribal faction that included several members of the council elected over the summer.

The sit-in ended Monday night and the two factions of the tribe are currently talking with a federal mediator to potentially settle their differences.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau