Audit critical of DOBOR may not help
ALTHOUGH it didn't make much of a splash in the media, several Water Ways readers were quick to let me know about it.
"It" was the publication of the most recent audit of our state's Department of Land and Natural Resources, including its Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, which operates and maintains all of Hawaii's disintegrating public recreational boating facilities.
I imagine the audit didn't get much ink or airtime because it is so similar to the audits of the past and, after all, most of those suggested improvements for the DLNR and DOBOR's operations were subsequently ignored.
For instance, just over five years ago, in writing about state auditor Marion Higa's assessment of DOBOR, I noted that it pointed to the DOBOR's lack of revenue and maintenance as problems, and it stated, "Little has changed since the audits in 1993 and 1998."
Well, little has changed in 2006 as well. This year's audit has again found that the DOBOR's operations and management are far from perfect.
"Although we noted some of the prior recommendations have been implemented, the absence of effective management oversight continues to plague the division," the report states.
As evidence, it points to the lack of progress made to correct the numerous safety issues that continue to jeopardize the public in the 12 years since the division was created to improve the poor conditions found at the small boat harbors.
And worse yet, after visiting the Ala Wai, Ke'ehi and Waianae harbors, the auditors concluded that some repairs performed by division personnel do not appear to be in accordance with proper standards and actually increase the danger to the public.
Much of the problem is related to the fact that while the DOBOR is supposed to be financially self-sufficient -- with revenue coming only from the Boating Special Fund and an occasional bond issue -- its mooring-fee structure hasn't changed since 1995.
The audit acknowledges that a new fee increase is now awaiting final approval by the attorney general and the governor, but without an additional inflation factor, it questions whether it will be enough.
"Without an accurate projection of expenses, the new harbor fees proposed may still not be sufficient to cover expenses and allow the division to address basic needs such as harbor repairs," it says.
There are several other areas of DOBOR operations the audit finds fault with, including inadequate processing of permits and collection of fees, and "weaknesses in its internal controls that increase the risk of theft and misappropriation of state property and assets."
In conclusion it states, "The failure of the division to develop and implement a fee increase and the continued deficiencies in processes and procedures indicates a lack of responsibility and leadership."
Anyone care to wager on how seriously the DLNR and DOBOR take this audit?
Judging by their past performance, I'm betting very little.