Follow-Up on Recommendations from Report No. 19-01, Audit of the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Land Conservation Fund
Hawaii State Auditor’s Report No. 22-11, October 2022
What we found in 2019
Our (2019) audit found that DLNR and DOFAW have struggled to properly manage the Legacy Land Conservation Program, hampering its effectiveness. For example, we found that the program missed fiscal deadlines to create and execute contracts for conservation grant awards, which caused funding for those grants to lapse and triggered a “domino effect” of improperly committing anticipated future appropriations to fund previous awards; the department mistakenly paid a total of nearly $685,000 for state central service fees – a cost the Land Conservation Fund had been statutorily exempt from since 2015; and DLNR had used the Land Conservation Fund to pay the salary of an employee who was doing work unrelated to the Legacy Land Conservation Program. Additionally, the program had not tracked or reported to the Legislature the balances of moneys from the Land Conservation Fund that it transferred to a DLNR trust account.
We also found that DOFAW sought and/or obtained funding from the Land Conservation Fund for its own projects outside of the Legacy Land Conservation Program’s grant award process, an almost yearlong, public process that includes funding recommendations by the Legacy Land Conservation Commission. In those cases, DOFAW acted as an applicant advocating its own projects for funding through the Legacy Land Conservation Program grant award process; after the Commission prioritized other applicants’ projects in front of its projects, DOFAW acted as advisor to the Land Board on the use of the same limited moneys to fund its projects. We found the practice of reprioritizing, and in some cases substituting its judgment for that of the nine Governor-appointed and Senate-confirmed commissioners, each of whom possesses certain statutorily required professional and cultural expertise, was far less transparent and accountable than the program’s grant award process. We found DOFAW’s unique role and special relationship with the Land Board conferred an advantage relative to other grant applicants, especially given the limited pool of moneys available annually from the Land Conservation Fund.
What we found in 2022
Our follow-up on DLNR’s implementation of the recommendations made in Report No. 19-01, conducted between April and July 2022, involved examining relevant documents and records, interviewing relevant department personnel, and evaluating whether the department’s actions addressed the recommendations.
The following analysis covers 12 recommendations to the Legacy Land Conservation Program, including 2 separate recommendations that were part of Recommendation No. 3. In this report, we assessed the program’s implementation of each part of Recommendation No. 3 separately. For that reason, we report on our review of 13 recommendations.
We found that the department implemented 6 of the recommendations, partially implemented 2 of the recommendations, and 2 recommendations were not implemented and remain open. We additionally found 3 recommendations were not implemented because the department disagrees with the recommendation….
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