OHA stirs doubts about its finances
Legislators will hold a hearing today on a measure that would start a special audit
The state Legislature is considering a special audit of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs because of questions about whether the agency "is adequately managing its affairs and financial resources."
The Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Jill Tokuda, will hold a hearing today on a new draft Senate Concurrent Resolution 138, calling for the legislative auditor to study OHA.
Both Republicans and Democrats said OHA is facing more questions because of its aggressive advertising campaign for Kau Inoa, the native Hawaiian registration program, and forming limited-liability companies for projects.
"I have asked questions for years about their expenses for lobbying and Kau Inoa and have always been stonewalled," complained Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai).
"You have former and present trustees who can't find out where the information is and where the money is going.
"Too many people think they are feathering their own nest and doing well by doing good for themselves. Let's find out," Slom said.
Tokuda said there have been questions about the staffing of OHA and how employees are hired. "There have been concerns about the number of employees leaving or being released by OHA," Tokuda (D, Kaneohe-Kailua) said.
OHA trustee Walter Heen, a retired state appellate judge, said OHA will recommend that the audit be killed because it is not needed. He said OHA has an annual financial audit, and no irregularities have been uncovered.
The real reason for the audit, Heen said, is because the Legislature wants to be more involved in the policy decisions of the organization formed by the 1978 Constitutional Convention, to represent the interests of native Hawaiians.
"I think this is a case of the Legislature being pushed into overstepping its bounds," Heen said.
Tokuda said, however, the audit will provide OHA "an opportunity to show what it is doing, and gives us the opportunity to make sure that OHA is living up to its obligations to the beneficiaries."