Audits should not be political weapons
State senators are calling for an accelerated audit of the Office of Hawaii Affairs.
Trying to fathom the motives of state lawmakers is like trying to read tea leaves in a cup of black coffee. Such is the case involving a proposed settlement between the state and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs over revenue rights from ceded land.
Having rejected the settlement, key senators are now demanding an immediate audit of OHA even though one is scheduled by law for next year.
Their claim that the call for an audit has nothing to do with the settlement is contradicted by the language of a draft resolution, which clearly states that it does. Although Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs committee, says the language will be revised, she and her allies cannot deny it was the basis for their action.
The draft also attempts to give the impression that lawmakers had been kept in the dark about a possible settlement when records, including bills they passed and briefings they requested and received, show they had been well aware that negotiations were taking place.
So why the accelerated audit?
State Attorney General Mark Bennett suggests that senators are peeved because OHA had the gall to criticize them. Trustee Walter Heen says lawmakers want to meddle in policy decisions outside their jurisdiction. Senators say they are simply doing the will of constituents.
Given the benefit of the doubt, the question of what senators hope to accomplish remains.
If the audit finds problems with OHA, which seems likely because that is the nature of audits, will senators then have grounds to reject another settlement next time? Or will they then attempt to amend the state Constitution, which binds OHA to representing the interests of Hawaiians?
Audits are an important, powerful tool largely controlled by the Legislature and should not be used for political purposes. Nor should they provide cover for weak- kneed lawmakers unwilling to make tough decisions.
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