Resolution to audit UH athletics moves ahead
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A state audit of the University of Hawaii athletic department moved a step closer to reality at the Legislature yesterday, but still has a way to go.
A resolution requesting a thorough look at the books of UH's $26 million a year budget for intercollegiate sports passed through the house higher education committee yesterday and moves on to the legislative management committee.
"I think it's something that needs to be done," said Shannon Wood, a Kailua resident who testified in behalf of the resolution.
UH vice president Howard Todo said UH has a cumulative $4.9 million deficit, but testified that another audit isn't necessary, since the department is audited by an independent firm each year, and there will be an additional audit with the transition to a new athletic director.
Both Todo and Takai said they want any confusion about the budget cleared up so that the new AD (Jim Donovan is expected to be named to the post this week) is not put in a position to fail.
"It would be wise to start with a clean slate, but also one that is transparent and honest," Takai said.
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Questions about the University of Hawaii athletic department's finances seem to often create more questions.
After a hearing at the Legislature yesterday, State Rep. K. Mark Takai (D, Newtown-Pearl City) said he was closer to getting what he wanted, but still didn't have all the answers he feels he and the public need about UH sports' $26 million annual budget.
"We don't know where you are," Takai told Howard Todo, the university's vice president for budget and finance and chief financial officer.
Todo reported that the UH athletic department has a cumulative deficit around $4.9 million.
Takai expressed frustration with conflicting information, including a revision of the 2005-2006 books that reflects an $82,000 deficit instead of what was initially reported, a $7,000 surplus.
"What it points to is the lack of transparency, although we got the closest today. That's a step in the right direction from my perspective," Takai said. "At least now we're talking numbers. In May, everybody was saying I was dreaming up this stuff. At least now there's some admittance and some acknowledging of these deficits."
Takai and other lawmakers want the state auditor to take a thorough look at UH's books. Yesterday, the House Higher Education committee passed a resolution to request such an audit for the years 2003 through 2007 (in its original form, it was for 1999 to 2007).
The resolution was passed unanimously by the nine members of the committee present, and now goes to the legislative management committee.
Todo said a state audit isn't necessary, because UH is audited each year by an independent firm. Also, there will be an additional audit with the changing of athletic directors; Jim Donovan is expected to be confirmed by the Board of Regents this week, replacing Herman Frazier, who was dismissed in January.
Takai -- who was among lawmakers who grilled Frazier at a hearing last spring -- said the proposed state audit of the $26 million budget is not motivated by looking for wrongdoing by Frazier.
"I don't think there's fraud. I don't think there's criminal activity," Takai said. "We're looking at systemic problems within the athletic department, looking backwards. And figuring out what they are and how we can fix them. So moving forward we don't have to deal with all this stuff in the future."
Takai and Todo agreed that they want to clear up the budget questions quickly for the new AD. Todo said UH's internal management audit is designed to do that.
"That's something that has been done when there's a change in leadership, not only for athletics, but for a major college or school or department," Todo said. "Because it does give the new person a clean slate to start with."
Takai also said he wants more specifics because of increased expected expenses, including proposed facility improvements and salary increases like new football coach Greg McMackin's $1.1 million per year.