IT'S WHAT I'VE BEEN SAYING FOR YEARS:
OHA needs more Fiscal Responsibility, but certain Trustees have lacked the political will
by OHA Trustee Rowena Akana, Ka Wai Ola, March, 2018
`Ano`ai kakou… Recently, there has been a lot of critical news about OHA’s recent spending on grants, sponsorships, and Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). But this is definitely not news to me. It’s what I’ve been saying all along. Here are some highlights of my past Ka Wai Ola articles during the past year:
- January 2018 – OHA publishes a book and hands over Scholarship Program to UH. On November 21, 2017, OHA published a book on mana that took five years of staff time to print. I’ve been waiting months for a response about where the money to publish the book came from.
- December 2017 – Bring Back OHA Run Programs. I wrote that change will not occur unless the Trustees begin to hold our Administration responsible for their actions.
- April 2017 – Back to Normal: Ho Hum, Business as Usual. I wrote that one of OHA’s money managers recommended that we get rid of the Fiscal Reserve slush fund. Trustees seemed supportive, but nothing has happened since. Now the State Auditor is calling this out! I also wrote that we need to find a more efficient way to run our essential programs such as community grants. The State Auditor’s February 2018 Audit of OHA (LINK) vindicates my position that OHA grants are still not being monitored and mostly given to those who know who and how to ask.
- March 2017 – Transition: Change doesn’t have to be painful. I argued that OHA must be an agency that treats our beneficiaries equally and it’s now up to the new leadership to make sure there is an even playing field at OHA. However, this has not occurred. I also mentioned that on February 8th, the Trustees formed an Advisory Committee to make recommendations to the Board on the scope of a proposed financial audit and management review. This only came about because our beneficiaries demanded it and wanted an answer to the one question I’ve been asking nonstop for the last decade: Where is all the money really going?” This effort has met with great opposition from the Administration.
ON ANOTHER NOTE:
Mona Bernardino, who currently serves as chief operating officer of Hiilei Aloha LLC, one of OHA’s five nonprofit LLCs, recently wrote an op-ed piece to Civil Beat. In it, she tries to shift the blame for OHA’s misspending and lack of transparency solely on the Trustees by hinting that it has to do with Trustee Allowances. What Ms. Bernardino fails to mention is that nothing was spent on things that weren’t allowed under current OHA policies.
Also, the fact that OHA’s LLCs are shrouded in secrecy and riddled with complaints rests mostly on Ms. Bernardino’s shoulders. Her objections to the audit of the LLCs has caught our attention for sure.
This is an election year and people like Ms. Bernardino would like nothing more than to get rid of the Trustees who have been demanding accountability. This is what prompted her op-ed letter. However, what she has done is open the barn door for not just the auditors, but for the Trustees to re-examine the need to have five LLCs. I have NOT been a fan of OHA’s LLCs. Three of them were secretly created by two former Trustees and the former Administrator without Board approval. They were eventually approved by the Board two years after they were formed, but only because I started asking questions about them.
Aloha Ke Akua.