Making OHA accountable is an incredibly challenging task


In light of the state audit of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs covering the years 2013-16 that was released last week, I wanted to share my manao and the path for which I hope to see OHA pursue.

First and foremost, the board is taking swift action to ensure that the policies which govern this agency are revised, updated and tightened in order to have more board control and oversight. It is obvious that here at OHA, there can be no room for personal judgments to be made over how our funds are disbursed. We must ensure that the improved policies and procedures that will be developed and agreed upon dictate the disbursements of our funds. This is our fiduciary mandate.

In the Resource Management Committee, which I chair, we have done many things that were already in the works prior to the release of the final state audit. Last year we approved the formation of our Fiscal Sustainability Plan and the working groups that are collaborating in many capacities to ensure the security and longevity of our financial assets of the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund.

The committee passed Action Item RM 18-01, which approved an amendment to the OHA Board of Trustees Executive Policy Manual, which limits the discretion of the budget adjustments made by the CEO from 10 percent of the operating budget to the lesser of $100,000 or 5 percent of each expenditure category. This promotes better budget forecasting and more accountability to the board for these types of budget adjustments. The committee will be voting next week to put a moratorium on fiscal reserve spending. In the last 1¢ years that I have been chair, there has not been any fiscal reserve spending.

OHA Chair Colette Machado also is proposing a moratorium on all trustee allowance spending until more stringent guidelines are put in place. These moratoriums will be put in place until we can develop and pass improved policies that will ensure minimal room for personal discretion and in alignment with our mission, to better the conditions of Hawaiians.

The RM committee has also gone to great lengths in requesting the financial records and other documents of our limited liability corporations for the purpose of an internal audit that OHA is currently conducting. As the Board of Trustees, our mandate and fiduciary duties include our subsidiaries as well. The RM committee requested formally that the managers of the LLCs provide these documents to the Financial Audit Negotiating Committee for the purpose of our internal audit.

As I have explained before, this internal audit will serve to look more in depth at the issues regarding our procurement and contracts. I can also assure you that in light of any misconduct or alarming findings that the audit may discover, the Board of Trustees will take whatever corrective action is necessary.

I wanted to address my trustee allowance contribution to the Mayor Arakawa Community Kokua Fund of $350, or the purchase of two tickets to its fundraiser. The Kokua Fund is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to individuals or groups who are in dire need. Their work is admirable with helping the direct needs of the people and organizations of Maui. I found it worthy to support such an organization that has this kind of impact on our community. I want to assure you that none of the trustee allowances were made to any political candidates.

It is my sincere hope that the new commitments made by your trustees will increase the accountability and transparency at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Mahalo nui loa!

* Carmen Hulu Lindsey is the Maui trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.