Thursday, June 26, 2003

State auditor calls
for veto override

Marion Higa wants additional
leeway to review state finances

State Auditor Marion Higa encouraged lawmakers to override Gov. Linda Lingle's veto of a bill that would give the auditor's office more leeway in reviewing finances of state departments.

State of Hawaii In a news conference yesterday, Higa said she is disappointed Lingle rejected House Bill 282, CD1, because it created a revolving fund that would have allowed the Office of the Auditor to conduct and be reimbursed for $5 million in annual financial audits of state finances that are now contracted to private firms.

Senate President Robert Bunda (D, Wahiawa) said that over the years it has become apparent that independent auditors tend to skew external financial audits of particular state departments so they are really not independent assessments.

Higa said she does not understand why the governor claimed in her veto message on Friday that the bill would duplicate and waste limited state resources.

"As far as I'm concerned, its not a question of money," Higa said. "It's a question of who's got the independence to insist that these audits be done in a correct fashion and that they be reported out and become public documents."

In her veto message, Lingle said the bill, which creates a revolving fund that allows Higa to be reimbursed, is commendable, but the use of such a fund would be "cumbersome and potentially wasteful."

Moreover, the governor said, the bill allows the auditor to decide unilaterally when to conduct an external financial audit of executive agencies and then claim reimbursements for the cost of such audits.

The governor added that the state already has a good handle on all state funds, and financial audits are done by the Budget & Finance Department.

"We have worked with Mrs. Higa during the session to try to get a bill that was acceptable and still maintain an appropriate relationship between the executive and legislative branch," Lingle said yesterday.

A similar bill was vetoed a year earlier by former Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Bunda said yesterday that the audit bill veto would be one the Senate is interested in overriding in a possible special session.

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki (D, Moiliili-Kaimuki) said lawmakers worked diligently on the bill this year and believed they were in line with the governor, who had promised more transparency in government and more accountability with taxpayer dollars.

"It's an issue that is important to us, and we'll continue to work on it," Saiki said this week, "but we did want to express our disappointment that the governor vetoed this measure. It was somewhat of an innocuous piece of legislation, but it really was significant in terms of its ability to bring more accountability to state government."


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