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OHA Audit Finds Up To $7.8M In Potential Fraud, Waste, Abuse

Catherine Cruz/Hawaii Public Radio

An independent audit of the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs has identified as much as $7.8 million in potentially fraudulent, wasteful or abusive spending.

The report released last week documented instances of poor record-keeping, inadequate oversight, missing documents and more.

The long-awaited audit conducted by accounting firm Clifton Larson Allen reviewed nearly 200 contracts and payments made by OHA over a five-year period beginning in 2012.

The financial review lists more than 100 recommendations to help OHA improve policies and procedures, including establishing a hotline for anonymous reporting of fraud and abuse.

OHA Board of Trustees Chair Colette Machado and Trustee Dan Ahuna said in a statement that a number of the report’s recommendations track those in a 2018 state audit.

They said the latest audit is a  sign that OHA is moving in the right direction, noting that some of the recommendations may have been implemented in the last two years.

But OHA Trustee Keli?i Akina, who called for the audit, says the report raises numerous red flags. He said he hopes OHA will hold accountable those responsible for any fraud, abuse and waste.

The semi-autonomous state agency has also been subpoenaed by the state attorney general's office to provide information about how the agency is helping protesters blocking construction of the giant Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.

The board of trustees approved a resolution earlier this year authorizing OHA staff to advocate for the protesters and to do "assessment and provision of health, safety and legal needs" for the activists.

OHA is going through a critical transition period with a new CEO, Sylvia Hussey. Her first task will be to analyze the new audit and prepare a plan for improvement by the end of next month.

OHA was founded more than four decades ago with a mission of improving the condition of Native Hawaiians.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at
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