State Procurement Office investigates OHA over lucrative, non-bid contract
by OHA Trustee Rowena Akana, Ka Wai Ola, June, 2017
`Ano`ai kakou… On May 8, 2017, Hawaii News Now reported that “a criminal probe is now underway on a lucrative, non-bid contract issued by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.” They also reported that “the state Attorney General’s office has subpoenaed records relating to an OHA’s contract with [a] Hawaiian scholar… Sources said the subpoena was issued to the State Procurement Office, which recently found that OHA improperly awarded the contract without competitive bidding.”
In early May, OHA received a copy of a letter from Sara Allen, the Administrator of the State Procurement Office (SPO), to Mililani Trask regarding OHA’s Contract No. 2879 with Kuauli ꞌĀina-Based Insights LLC. It stated that a certain division of our staff had violated the State Procurement laws.
This news was not a revelation to me, as I had been informing the Trustees that this behavior had been going on for a very long time. As the former Chair, I wanted this behavior stopped.
It was the main reason for my rescinding the procurement duties from the OHA CEO, which caused a furor by some management staff and some of the public. However, the public was not aware of OHA’s internal problems and did not understand my reasoning for this removal of this power. Needless to say, my detractors used this to say the Board was dysfunctional under my two-month watch and it was a reason to elect a new Chair. As a result, the “old guard” was put back in power.
So here we go again, faced with the same problems, only in worse shape now because it isn’t just the State Procurement Office who is looking into OHA. We didn’t do well at the legislature last year or this year, and our beneficiaries question the ability of some Trustees to manage our Trust assets.
Can OHA be fixed? Yes, but it will take political will on the part of some Trustees to do what is necessary to make this organization into one that our beneficiaries can be proud of and our employees happy to work for. Aloha Ke Akua.
Background: Criminal Probe of OHA’s $435K Beamer Contract