HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State senators are demanding an audit of the state Tax Department's $60 million computer modernization project.
The digital overhaul is meant to update Hawaii's antiquated tax system, but has been plagued with turmoil and accusations of mismanagement.
Senators on the Ways and Means and Government Operations Committees unanimously approved the resolution for an audit — and want it to begin this summer.
The hearing got heated when State Senator Donna Mercado Kim hit new state tax director, Linda Chu Takayama, with a series of questions on the audit.
Takayama replaced the previous tax director, who had suddenly resigned.
That happened after an independent consultant said it had been instructed by state tax officials to make changes to its latest report, which was much more critical than prior reports about the computer modernization project.
"There's some contract violation here. Why wouldn't we go after them?" asked State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, chairwoman of the Government Operations Committee.
"We terminated the contract as soon as we could," Takayama responded.
In recent months, the state fired that consultant, AdvanTech, and management of the project shifted to the chief information officer when six project managers resigned. Now, management of the project is back with the tax director.
Meanwhile, the upheaval has spurred the union to file complaints.
Kim said she's disappointed with the lack of "concrete answers."
And while Takayama acknowledged the department has issues yet to be resolved, she's ready to fix them.
"There were other managerial issues that we had to resolve. We think now that the project is back on track," she said.
For her part, Kim hopes the audit could happen this summer while the project is going on.
The auditor says that would be very unusual. The office typically conducts audits after the fact.