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Sunday, June 16, 2019
After Lying to Legislature OHA Shoots Messenger--and Misses
By Andrew Walden @ 10:28 PM :: 3011 Views :: Ethics, OHA

by Andrew Walden

After months of lying to the Legislature and stonewalling an audit of OHA’s secretive LLCs, Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Trustees, April 24, 2019, suddenly found HB172, OHA’s biennial funding bill, made contingent on the audit’s completion.  The next day, HB402, which would have vastly increased OHA’s ceded lands revenues, was killed by House discharge of conferees.  

In response, Trustees considered retaliating against the one Trustee they should have been listening to.  That’s the upshot from OHA Trustees June 6, 2019 meeting.  

UPDATE June 20, 2019: OHA Majority Targets Trustee Akina

Its not difficult to figure out which OHA Trustee is being targeted for censorship under OHA BoT June 6, 2019, Action Item 19-09, "proposing a ‘Permitted Interaction Group’ (PIG) to investigate complaints against a Trustee”?

As Hawai’i Free Press reported June 6:

Trustees voted 8-1 to consider 19-09 in executive session.  The lone dissenter, Trustee Keli'i Akina, had argued that the complaints should be discussed publicly.  Akina was later seen exiting the executive session meeting.  When Trustees returned to open session, they voted 7-0 with two abstentions to defer 19-09 and not create the PIG.  Trustees Akina and Bob Lindsey abstained.

Logically, the target of the PIG “investigation” would recuse himself.  Given a choice between ethics-oriented critic Akina and outgoing OHA CEO Kamana'o Crabbe’s #1 board crony, Bob Lindsey, it is not difficult to conclude that Akina is the target and Lindsey the author of the failed Action Item.

What was it that Akina wrote which Lindsey might deem to be a violation of the “Duty of Obedience and Support for Board Decisions” enshrined in the OHA Board of Trustees Code of Conduct?

The text of Action Item 19-09 cites two complaints: The first filed April 17, 2019 and the second filed May 8, 2019.  Each complaint came about a week after a news release issued by Akina’s office. 

These are the news releases:

April 10, 2019: OHA Trustees Vote 8-1 to Extend Audit 

Trustee Keli’i Akina was the lone dissenter today as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Resource Management Committee agreed to delay the independent audit of OHA and its LLCs.  Eight of the nine Trustees voted to extend the contract deadline to December 2019, seven months behind the original deadline for completion of the audit.

Trustee Akina said, “It is very troubling that the OHA Board of Trustees has taken a step backward for transparency and accountability by delaying the independent audit for fraud, waste and abuse. OHA beneficiaries, legislators and the public have been waiting for this long overdue audit for more than two years, and pushing back the deadline bypasses several key events including the performance evaluation of the CEO as his contract expires in June. This further delay of the promised independent audit for fraud, waste and abuse impacts the already eroded reputation of OHA.  Trustees need to be held accountable for greater transparency.”

Trustee Akina served as Chairperson of the Audit Advisory Committee that crafted the scope of the independent audit, for which the OHA Board set aside $500,000 and procured top financial services firm Clifton Larson Allen (CLA). 

Trustee Akina added, “I voted no today in part because questions haven’t been answered as to why the audit has been delayed, and why, according to OHA management, documents requested by CLA from OHA and its subsidiary LLCs have not been handed over in a timely fashion. While I believe there are alternatives to delaying the deadline for the independent audit, I will continue to work with the Board to ensure that it is completed.”

April 27, 2019: HB172: Legislature Denies Funding for OHA and LLCs Unless Audit for Fraud, Waste and Abuse is Completed

In a unanimous decision on April 24, the Legislative conference committee on HB172 HD1 SD2 CD1 voted to withhold funding for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' $6.58 million biennial budget request unless a long-delayed audit of the agency and its LLCs is completed.  The audit specified by the legislative committee was approved by the OHA Board in March 2017 and designed specifically to ferret out potential fraud, waste and abuse.  Despite the passing of more than two years and an allocation by OHA of $500,000 to hire an auditing firm, the audit has not been completed. The Board recently approved a further delay in its completion until December 2019.

Trustee Keli'i Akina, who cast the sole vote against the further delay of the audit, said, "The Legislature did the right thing by holding OHA accountable for completing its long-delayed audit for fraud, waste and abuse.  This is a victory for OHA's beneficiaries and State taxpayers who deserve to know the truth about how OHA and its LLCs handle public funds. Now that OHA knows it must make good on its promises to be transparent, it should be motivated to prevent further delays in the audit."

Trustee Akina added, "It is important to note that the Legislature has required that the audit include not only OHA but also its LLCs.  Much of the delay in the audit has been caused by the refusal of the LLCs to provide documents requested by the auditors and the failure of the OHA Board to compel the LLCs to comply.  Hopefully, the demand of the Legislature should put an end to this lack of commitment to the transparency."

Trustee Akina served as chairman of the Advisory Committee that designed the scope of the audit and has been a major advocate for its completion.

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