DOE seeks financial officer post for schools
Officials hope it will improve fiscal and program monitoring
The Department of Education plans to create a chief financial officer position to strengthen fiscal oversight of the state's sprawling $2 billion-a-year school system.
The post is one of the key recommendations from an internal audit last year, which faulted the department for inadequate fiscal and program monitoring.
Acknowledging that "there is always room for improvement," state schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto said Hawaii's public school system had grown into a "huge corporation" that requires a fitting fiscal management style.
"The need is there, and the support is there for something like this," she said.
The $110,000-a-year position would be on the level of an assistant superintendent, and responsibilities would include oversight of budgeting, accounting, procurement, financial controls and risk management for the 286-school system.
Last year's Department of Education audit by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP found a broad lack of oversight and transparency in the 278 separate department programs and initiatives funded by Hawaii taxpayers.
This made it impossible to tell in many cases whether programs were achieving their goals and state money was being spent wisely, according to the audit.
The audit recommended hiring a chief financial officer, a recommendation echoed by the Hawaii Business Roundtable.
Hamamoto said the department could hire from either the private sector or within the DOE. "We might have a CFO type within our own ranks," she said.
The DOE will seek approval to create the post in the just-convened legislative session, she said.
"I personally feel it's important that they not get a former teacher or principal for this, but rather someone with the business skills to take the department into the 21st century," said Sen. Norman Sakamoto (D, Salt Lake-Foster Village), who chairs the Senate's Committee on Education and Military Affairs.
In a recent Board of Education discussion of the body's priorities for 2006, members stressed the need for greater oversight of the department.
Some said it was hard to tell whether they were getting the full story from the various DOE program managers who appear before the board to attest to their programs' cost-effectiveness.
"We'd like to have one person who can tell us whether we're wasting money on something," board member Garrett Toguchi said.
Hamamoto said it was unlikely someone would be hired until after the legislative session ends in May.