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Thursday, July 13, 2017
Invasive Species Inspectors Communicate 'Caveman Style' After (another) State IT Project Failure
By Hawaii State Auditor @ 2:03 PM :: 1658 Views :: Agriculture, Hawaii State Government

Audit of Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture’s Plant Quarantine Branch

Hawaii State Auditor Report 17-05, July, 2017 (excerpts)

…we found that the branch lacks the data gathering and data analysis tools necessary to define and respond to threats posed by invasive species. Other biosecurity agencies, both domestic and foreign, use data-driven risk analysis to continually guide operations, but PQB is unable to collect consistent, meaningful pest interception data or disseminate up-to-date information to its inspectors. As a result, we found that PQB inspection activities vary from inspector to inspector, based on the individual’s experience. The little guidance inspectors do receive from the department is outdated or infrequently updated. Other information is communicated, in the words of one PQB inspector, “caveman style”— handed down verbally from one inspector to another.

Why did these problems occur?

After more than a decade of development and close to $4.2 million in new and amended contracts, the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) has failed in its attempt to implement a central integrated database system that can perform its necessary core functions. The branch’s current database, Invicta, does not include important taxonomic data, communicate with other PQB databases, or support e-manifesting, a screening process that allows low-risk cargo to be pre-cleared. Because of Invicta’s limited capabilities, pest interception data and other information collected by inspectors are not shared throughout the branch or integrated with other data sources to provide the branch with a necessary tool to reassess the risk of entry of invasive species.

Why do these problems matter?

In today’s globally interconnected world, the State of Hawai‘i must be vigilant, responsive and flexible in guarding against the threat of invasive species. Given the tremendous volume of cargo arriving through Hawai‘i’s ports, PQB inspectors cannot examine every box of produce, every plant or even every shipping container. Instead, the branch must develop processes and incorporate technology to deploy its inspectors and direct its biosecurity efforts efficiently and effectively. However, without a reliable source of data on which it can base decision-making, HDOA cannot and does not monitor, evaluate, adjust or improve its inspection activities. As a result, PQB inspectors operate in a bubble, inspecting today as they did yesterday. Meanwhile, new and emerging invasive species risks may be going unaddressed. ….

read … Audit Report

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