City Council pushes new rail audit: 'Where the heck is the money going?'

City Council pushes new rail audit: 'Where the heck is the money going?'
Updated: Aug. 16, 2017 at 5:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The financially-troubled rail system is facing another critical audit.

The Honolulu City Council's Budget Committee on Wednesday approve a resolution calling for a follow-up audit of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, whose management was slammed by a similar audit last year.

The move comes as state lawmakers meet to figure out how to pay for a projected $3 billion shortfall.

"Where the heck is the money going? And that's what we want to see and that's what we want to find out. We want to verify where the hard earned tax dollars are going," said Councilman Trevor Ozawa, who introduced the resolution.

A study last year by City Auditor Edwin Young found that the rail authority's financial plans were unreliable and that its cost projections weren't well documented.

"We found that the internal controls were so weak that if fraud, waste and abuse were to occur, HART and many others would not have detected it, could not prevent it and could not have taken corrective action," said Young.

But that audit only looked at HART's operating expenses. The new audit will take a much broader look at the rail system's construction contracts and cost overruns incurred by contractors.

The review will not be a forensic audit. Young said the city charter bars his agency from conducting such an audit, which looks for fraud and other criminal acts. He said that type of investigation is usually handled by the city Prosecutor's office and other law enforcement agencies.

Rail officials and city leader vowed to cooperate with the auditor's office for the new report -- unlike fired CEO Dan Grabauskas, who was combative with auditors and was suspected of withholding records.

"We're learning from past mistakes," said HART Vice Chairman Terry Lee.

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