State investigates OHA over lucrative, non-bid contract to scholar

State investigates OHA over lucrative, non-bid contract to scholar

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A criminal probe is now underway on a lucrative, non-bid contract issued by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Hawaii News Now has learned the state Attorney General's office has subpoenaed records relating to an OHA's contract with Hawaiian scholar Kamana Beamer.

Sources said the subpoena was issued to the state Procurement Office, which recently found that OHA improperly awarded the contract without competitive bidding.

One OHA dissident trustee said contracting violations are rampant at the state agency.

"Some people got contracts favorably. Staff was complaining that rules were not being followed and they were asked to in a sense cover things up," said Trustee Rowena Akana.

She said a criminal probe is needed.

"I think that's perhaps what we need. Because warnings have not worked."

Beamer's contract award was for $435,000, but it's unclear whether he was paid the entire amount.

The state Office of Procurement said Beamer was originally paid $150,000 between 2013 and 2014 but that the contract was extended several times before it expired last year.

The Procurement Office did not say how much of the remaining $285,000 award was paid to Beamer.

Beamer -- the grandson of the late Hawaiian cultural authority Nona Beamer and the son of prominent Hawaiian musician Kapono Beamer -- had no comment.

OHA's CEO Kamanao Crabbe said he's not aware of the criminal investigation.

He said OHA considered contracts for research services exempt from competitive bidding but that the state Procurement Office "interprets the exemption category much more narrowly."

The contract was for documenting the sale of crown lands between 1893 and 1959. The study calls for measuring the acreage sold and the development of a database listing the sale of the properties.

According Akana, the state agency already paid for similar studies by other contractors.

"OHA has done so many of those already. And we gave the (University of Hawaiian's) Hawaiian studies program $1 million to also do an inventory of Hawaiian lands," she said.

Akana said she's asked OHA staffers for copies of Beamer's research to see how much work was actually done.

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.