Cherokee Nation COVID-19 relief spending gets clean report via auditing firm

The Cherokee Nation Constitution requires an annual audit of the financial statements by a certified public accounting be completed and presented to the Tribal Council within six months following the end of each fiscal year, which is Sept. 30. The fiscal year 2020 audit and accompanying financial reports were given to the Tribal Council on March 31. 

TAHLEQUAH – According to a Cherokee Nation press release, the CN received a clean audit opinion from an independent certified public accounting firm for its fiscal year 2020 financial statements, including the tribe’s Respond, Recover and Rebuild COVID-19 relief initiatives. 

The CN Constitution requires an annual audit of the financial statements by a CPA be completed and presented to the Tribal Council within six months following the end of each fiscal year, which is Sept. 30. The FY 2020 audit and accompanying financial reports from BKD LLP of Tulsa were given to the Tribal Council on March 31, the release states. 

It also states the CN has received clean audit opinions every year for more than 20 years. 

“The Cherokee Nation has long had a reputation for being good stewards of our finances,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Independent auditors have vigorously reviewed our financial statements and given us clean opinions for decades, so it is no surprise that our most recent fiscal year statements are no different, even with a budget increase of nearly 50% between May and June of 2020 from gaining U.S. Treasury COVID relief funds. These COVID relief funds came with strict federal requirements outlining how those dollars can and cannot be disbursed, and we have followed those requirements from day one. The FY 2020 independent audit confirms that. I want to commend the treasurer and Cherokee Nation Financial Resources staff, comprised of more than 100 employees, for working tirelessly during the COVID-19 pandemic to see that funding was earmarked, spent properly and accounted for when helping our citizens through COVID, and for ensuring the audit’s completion by the Constitutional deadline, despite a nearly 50% reduction in staff last year caused by the pandemic.” 

According to the release, aside from its annual audit, the tribe’s COVID-19 relief funds also undergo internal reviews by attorneys, accounting professionals and external consultants who ensure expenditures meet federal rules and regulations. 

The release states the tribe has also established a Financial Resources COVID team with finance and accounting experience to provide oversight of the tribe’s COVID-19 Respond, Recover and Rebuild funding initiatives. It also states the CN’s COVID-19 relief funds are subject to quarterly reporting to the U.S. Treasury, which has full audit and oversight of the funds. 

According to the release, since 2013, the CN has also undergone 107 federal agency audits which have audited more than $420 million. These audits have shown that the CN has a 99.999% success rate for properly spending and accounting for its federal funding, the release states.

“At the end of the day, there are at least six layers of scrutiny that Cherokee Nation’s COVID-19 relief funds are subjected to,” said Treasurer Tralynna Sherrill Scott. “These processes are a challenge but they are an important part of our commitment to government accountability and transparency. Despite the tremendous challenges we were faced with during FY 2020, we remained committed to the strenuous controls we have in place to ensure every dollar of the Cherokee people’s money is spent in accordance with the law, and properly accounted for. The Financial Resources team does a remarkable job and I could not be more proud to serve as the treasurer of the Cherokee Nation.” 

The FY 2020 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and the Popular Annual Financial Report are available at https://cherokee.org/our-government/office-of-financial-resources.