Working group criticizes state auditor’s performance, stops short of calling for his removal

Updated: Apr. 1, 2021 at 5:58 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A special panel Thursday issued a critical report on the state Auditor’s Office and its head Les Kondo, alleging low productivity, high staff turnover and substandard work.

But the committee stopped short of recommending Kondo’s removal.

The State Auditor Working Group ― whose members include former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, retired City Auditor Edwin Young and former state Finance Director Wes Machida ― said that between 2016 and 2020, the Legislature passed bills or resolutions requesting 25 audits and reports.

Of those, only 15 were completed and only three were finished on time, the committee said.

“Several audits were issued after the Legislative session adjourned and more than seven months after they were due,” the report said.

But in a telephone interview, Kondo said the report’s findings are misleading.

He said some of the uncompleted reports didn’t have the required approval of both the House and Senate. He also said the House tried to slash his office’s budget by more than 50 percent before backing off.

“I think the conclusions are predetermined. … This is not surprising,” he said.

The report also said Kondo refused to cooperate with the committee’s review, questioning its legal authority.

“Two members of the working group have a collective total of more than 60 years of auditing experience,” the report said.

“They have not been subject to the refusal to cooperate, level of animus or lack of professionalism that they have experienced from the current state auditor.”

But Kondo said the committee declined to meet with him and that it only interviewed former employees not current staffers.

The report also said the office’s productivity was affected by a high turnover rate.

Between 2016 and 2018, the committee said nearly half the office’s staff either left or were terminated. Between 2018 and 2020, the turnover rate was 40%, the report said.

The committee interviewed eight former staffers and two department heads who expressed frustration working with the auditor.

One unnamed department head described Kondo as “intrusive, inconsiderate and insensitive” to their concerns.

Several former staffers also told the committee that Kondo’s “inexperience” with the auditing field resulted in unnecessary re-writes of their reports, causing the delays.

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