Audit blasts OHA for lavish spending, awarding grants to those who know 'who to ask'
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A draft audit blasts the Office of Hawaiian Affairs blasted for using money that's supposed to benefit Hawaiian causes for political campaigns, a Waikiki environmental convention and for travel for an entrant in the 2014 Miss Rodeo America pageant in Las Vegas.
The report leaked to the media this week paints a picture of a state agency that circumvents its own internal policies and staff recommendations by awarding millions of dollars in grants to those "who know how and who to ask."
It also calls attention to the infighting and dysfunction within OHA's boardroom and with top management. These internal disputes that have triggered lawsuits costing OHA nearly $2 million in recent years.
"I'm disgusted, absolutely disgusted and the people of Hawaii should be as well," said Brendon Lee, who is a candidate for OHA's board. He said the entire board should be replaced or voted out.
"A good portion of this money also comes from state taxpayers. So everyone should be … totally upset by the mishandling and mismanagement of state funds."
Among the expenditures flagged by the audit include:
- $500,000 to help fund the 2016 World Conservation Congress in Waikiki;
- And $100,000 to send select OHA trustees and staffers to New Zealand to retrieve a native Hawaiian feathered cape and helmet.
According to the auditor, OHA approved the expenses with little documentation justifying the expenses.
The audit also blasted individual trustees for allegedly abusing their $22,000 a year allowances. The questionable expenditures included:
- $1,000 for travel for an entrant in the 2014 Miss Rodeo America pageant in Las Vegas;
- $450 in political donations;
- And more than $5,000 for meals at restaurants like Yanagi Sushi.
The audit couldn't have come at a worse time for OHA. Many of its trustees are up for re-election and the agency is asking for more money from the state Legislature.
OHA wants to double its share of the ceded land revenues to $30 million. But given this scathing audit, it's going to be a tough sell.
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