Monday, July 15, 2024
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Saturday, May 1, 2021
Legislators Breathe New Life into Auditing OHA
By Keli'i Akina PhD @ 1:06 AM :: 2944 Views :: Ethics, OHA

Legislators Breathe New Life into Auditing OHA

by OHA Trustee Keli‘i Akina, PhD, Ka Wai Ola, May, 2021

During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers demonstrated strong interest in matters concerning the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). Legislators proposed several measures affecting OHA directly and relating to everything from development of OHA’s Kaka Ľako Makai properties, to the eligibility requirements for becoming an OHA trustee.

There is renewed interest in holding OHA accountable to the highest standards of integrity and ethics. Discussions of the OHA budget (House Bill 204) saw legislators pushing for a follow up on the OHA Board-initiated audit of OHA and its limited liability companies conducted by Clifton Larson Allen (CLA) in 2019. Specifically, lawmakers want a comprehensive examination, meaning not just a routine financial statements audit, and even committed additional funding to enable OHA to proceed.

You may recall that in 2019, when OHA submitted its budget request to the legislature, the legislature conditioned OHA’s receipt of funding on the completion of a “financial audit and management review” by the state Office of the Auditor, led by Les Kondo. The 2019 budget bill was signed into law as Act 37. The Auditor used his discretion over the scope of work its office would undertake as part of the “Act 37 audit,” to focus on OHA’s LLCs. However, the Auditor chose not to finish the Act 37 audit, citing applicable government auditing standards he believed precluded completion of the work, due to OHA’s refusal to waive its attorney-client privilege over executive session meeting minutes the Auditor sought to review.

I am on record as having called on the Board of Trustees to voluntarily waive its attorney-client privilege over the redacted minutes. I did so because I believe there is overriding value in having the Auditor examine OHA’s LLCs, which are state agencies, and taking a deeper dive than routine audits. Not all audits are the same. OHA consistently undergoes annual financial statements audits, but these do not look specifically for fraud, waste, and abuse.

The dispute over the redacted meeting minutes proceeded to litigation, and a court eventually ruled that OHA did not have to unredact the requested minutes. As a result, the Act 37 audit was not completed and OHA did not receive the approximately $3 million in general funds it requested in 2019. This was a loss to all OHA stakeholders, who deserve a strong, accountable and transparent OHA. They deserve an OHA that is able to work with the legislature and other state agencies on behalf of and in the best interest of the Hawaiian community.

Fast forward to April 2021, and to deliberations between OHA and the Senate Ways and Means Committee (WAM) relating to OHA’s 2021 budget request. This time, WAM agreed to accept the 2019 CLA report in satisfaction of the Act 37-required audit.

By the end of the 2021 legislative session, if the recommendation of the WAM committee is approved by the legislature and governor, OHA’s beneficiaries may finally get answers to serious questions raised by the CLA audit. (You can view my summary of the CLA audit report, entitled “Red Flags: An Analysis of the CLA Audit Report” by email request to

The OHA Board is to be commended for having commissioned the CLA audit in the first place. After all, the transactions flagged by CLA as potentially indicating fraud, waste and abuse totaled over $7 million in beneficiary trust funds. Let’s hope that this year’s legislative session will help move OHA forward in its commitment to accountability and transparency.


TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


Aloha Pregnancy Care Center


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii Military History

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Together


Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

July 4 in Hawaii

Land and Power in Hawaii

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

NRA-ILA Hawaii


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

School Choice in Hawaii

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii