Council identifies ways to streamline government

CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES

At the last Maui County Council meeting, a unanimous vote was taken to begin a performance audit of the Maui County Department of Liquor Control.

Following recent news coverage and abrupt changes in liquor rules, Council Member Yuki Lei

Sugimura requested an audit with a focus on reviewing the operations and processes of the department.

Liquor laws are governed by the state, but each county can create additional rules. In recent years, the county’s liquor department has made its processes increasingly difficult in comparison to statewide regulations.

Examples of issues include the difficulty of obtaining one-day special event permits, and issues with permit renewals for longtime liquor license holders like the Maui Beach Hotel.

The audit will also review the department’s staffing and interactions with the Liquor Control Commission to determine if improvements can be made.

Although the term “audit” may have a negative connotation, it is a helpful tool for decision-makers. The primary goal of any audit is to determine whether proper controls and standards are in place and if best practices are followed. If recommendations can be given to improve operations, it should be viewed as beneficial to both the council and the liquor department.

The liquor department audit comes on the heels of three other ongoing council-initiated audits.

An audit of the Department of Fire and Public Safety, conducted by California-based Citygate Associates, focused on reviewing operational standards and taking a deep dive into the fiscal management of the department.

The auditors will present their findings to the council’s Budget and Finance Committee in mid-March.

This past summer, Council Member Stacy Crivello requested an audit of the county’s Department of Transportation. Conducted by RSM International, the audit is tasked with reviewing public transportation options, including fixed route, paratransit and human transportation services.

The county spends nearly $20 million annually on public transportation. Therefore, understanding how duplicative services can be minimized while ensuring route expansion and basic operations are conducted in the best possible manner will be very beneficial.

The final report is anticipated to be completed by mid-March.

With the departure of Danny Agsalog as director of the Department of Finance, the County Charter requires the council to conduct an independent audit of any accounts within the control of the director. The audit is being conducted by N&K CPAs Inc., based in Honolulu.

A full presentation of the audit’s findings will also be released in mid-March.

In the fiscal year 2018 budget, $250,000 was appropriated by the council to conduct an affordable housing policy and implementation analysis, with the goal of jump-starting the creation of affordable housing.

Earlier this month, two requests for proposals were released, seeking qualified bidders to assist with the study.

The first request is to create policy solutions to better identify, reduce and eliminate barriers that impede the development of affordable housing. This includes recommending changes to the County Charter, or provisions in the County Code that relate to the subdivision process and permitting process, as well as conducting a review of the county’s organizational structure as it relates to housing.

The second request is to create an implementation plan that will become the strategic road map for future affordable housing in the county. This includes analyzing government-owned land or acquiring land with the most potential to create affordable housing. Creating opportunities for public-private partnerships is also a part of the request.

More information on both RFPs can be found at www.mauicounty.us/affordable-housing-policy-analysis-and-implementation-plan.

The continual goal of the council is to ensure our county is operating in the most efficient and effective manner, with best results for residents.

Mahalo!

* Mike White is chair of the Maui County Council. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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