A State Audit of the Honolulu Rail Project was released today.
State Auditor, Les Kondo, says a review of records and staff interviews revealed that the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation or HART awarded contracts too early knowing the work could not be completed on time.
“We found that the city awarded the first contract that was $438 million contract with no basis to believe the contract schedule was practical or predictable. Because the city’s poor planning and unrealistic projections, the project’s estimated cost has risen from $ 5.122 billion to $9.188 billion, an increase of 79 and-a-half percent.”
The audit covered the period from 2009 to 2017, as mandated by the state legislature. Kondo says change orders alone accounted for more than 350 million dollars as of last year and has increased the burden on local funding.
“Federal government’s contribution to the construction costs have remained fixed: $1.55 billion. State residents and visitors, they fund the balance of the construction cost. That shared cost has more than doubled from about $3.5 billion to over $7.6 billion.”
HART executive director and CEO, Andrew Robbins, says the state auditor’s focus was on the time period before he came on board in September 2017. Since then, HART has changed management practices, contract requirements and streamlined staff in order to live within its means.
“For two years now we have not increased the budget at all and we’re on the $8.165 billion capital budget that excludes finance costs and we’re committed to opening the full system by September 2025.”
Robbins says he will cooperate as much as possible with the state auditor while working full-time on the rail project. In time, he says, HART will hopefully gain the trust of state leaders and taxpayers.
“I think the main thing that we can do is, when we say we’re going to do something, we do it. We now say we’re going to live within our means, we’re gonna solve problems, we’re gonna be more transparent. So really, do what we say, meet our commitments, you know, over the long term we hope little by little we’ll restore the public trust.”
Meanwhile, State Auditor Kondo says he intends to release the second of 4 reports on HART next week, which will focus on mid-2018 to present. The second report will include findings and recommendations.
“You know there’s certainly inefficiencies in government and that’s part of my office’s, the city auditor’s the county auditor’s job to try to identify those inefficiencies so that we can improve government.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.