Sunday, May 26, 2024
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Why OHA Should Fully Open Its Records to the State Auditor
By Keli'i Akina PhD @ 4:40 AM :: 2354 Views :: Ethics, OHA

Why OHA Should Fully Open Its Records to the State Auditor

by OHA Trustee Keli‘i Akina, PhD,  Ka Wai Ola, May 1, 2023

On April 5, 2023, the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court denied Hawaiʻi State Auditor Leslie Kondo full access to minutes of closed executive sessions of the OHA Board of Trustees. The auditor had requested access to unredacted minutes in order to conduct a constitutionally mandated performance audit of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). Kondo argued that it was necessary to review information from closed executive sessions in order to complete a full and proper audit. OHA refused to provide the unredacted minutes and ultimately sued the state auditor to prevent him from accessing these records.

Personally, I was disappointed in the decision of the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court. OHA is a state government agency, and the people of Hawaiʻi and beneficiaries of OHA have a right to expect transparency and accountability. The state auditor plays the significant role of being a watchdog. This role enables all stakeholders in our government, from voters to elected officials, to determine whether our public institutions are operating in a pono manner. Recent exposures of public corruption throughout our local and state government underscore why we must keep a close watch.

Speaking out as an individual Trustee in my personal capacity, I am not criticizing my fellow Trustees. I believe that the OHA Board of Trustees acted in good faith to protect and preserve its ʻattorney-client privilege.’ This is an important legal privilege that maintains confidentiality in communication between attorneys and clients. The problem here is that there is a tension between what is legally right and what is the pono thing to do.

The court noted this tension as a contest between two statutes in Hawaiʻi law. On the one hand, HRS 23-5 (2009 & 2014) empowers the auditor to receive “all” records of an auditee. On the other hand, HRS 626-1, Rule 503 (2016) protects the attorney-client privilege. According to the opinion of the federal circuit court, which was affirmed by the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court, an “arm wrestle match between the two statutes” could have decided the winner of this legal battle, and “there’s good arguments on both sides.”

I understand that the court attempted to resolve the tension between two conflicting state laws. However, where does that leave us in terms of holding OHA and other state agencies accountable? This ruling could set a questionable legal precedent. OHA, and possibly other Hawaiʻi state agencies, may now be able to refrain from providing “all” necessary documents to the state auditor during the performance of an audit.

According to the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), “audits should be conducted with complete and unrestricted access to employees, property, and records.”* The IIA explains that this helps “government organizations achieve accountability and integrity, improve operations, and instill confidence among citizens and stakeholders.” This access also allows auditors to “detect and deter public corruption.”

There must be a way forward that permits the state auditor to obtain the necessary documents to conduct accurate and robust audits.

Perhaps the two conflicting laws need to be re-examined by the state legislature. Or, perhaps, OHA should consider voluntarily opening its books to the state auditor – not because it is legally required to do so but because it would be the pono thing to do. That could be a great step forward in demonstrating transparency and accountability while continuing to build trust with OHA’s beneficiaries.

To access the Institute of Internal Auditors’ (IIA) report, please visit The Role of Auditing in Public Sector Governance.  Trustee Akina welcomes your comments and questions regarding this column and others at TrusteeAkina@oha.org.

Links

TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote

2aHawaii

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

AntiPlanner

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

FIRE

Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Habele.org

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

HiFiCo

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

MentalIllnessPolicy.org

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

Natatorium.org

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Obookiah

OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii

RailRipoff.com

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

School Choice in Hawaii

SenatorFong.com

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

Waagey.org

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii