Council audits of county: Boon or boondoggle?

LIHU’E — The Kaua`i County Council unanimously passed a county charter

amendment Wednesday that, if approved by voters in November, would enable the

council to order performance audits for county departments, including the

administration headed by Mayor Maryanne Kusaka.

The amendment was proposed

by Councilman Gary Hooser. No other council member signed off on the bill as a

co-sponsor, but it was passed unanimously.

The council-ordered performance

audits would be in addition to financial audits, which are already performed by

independent auditors contracted by the county administration.

Financial

audits are designed to determine, from a material point of view, the accuracy

of financial statements prepared by the administration, and are already

performed, said Wally Rezentes Sr., Kusaka’s administrative

assistant.

Financial audits examine internal controls and procedures which

govern the receipt and dispersal of funds.

“In a nutshell,” a financial

audit tracks “where the money came from, where it went and how much was left at

the end of the period,” said Beth Tokioka, county spokeswoman.

According to

Tokioka, the council’s performance audits, as proposed, are intended to measure

the productivity of the funds used.

“In other words,” she said, “what were

the results obtained after the funds were expended. What kind of bang are you

getting for your buck?”

Several county department heads have not returned

telephone calls inquiring about their views on a proposal to essentially

double-check their performances.

But Rezentes did comment.

“A

performance audit as presently proposed is nice to have, but it could be very

expensive. The voter needs to determine if he or she is willing to pay for it,”

he said.

Hooser disagreed, saying, “The cost of the audit is directly

related to the scope of the audit. If we decided to audit the entire county,

that could very well be expensive. One department, not so expensive.

“We’re

asked to give money (above the budgeted funds) by departments all the time. We

don’t have any mechanism that tells us if these departments are being run

properly, except customer complaints, if you will. This charter amendment gives

us a way to evaluate efficiency.”

Hooser pointed out that the state of

Hawai`i and the Big Island have performance audit capabilities.

“A few

years ago, the budget operations process was a line item and the mayor could

not spend money except specificially. Then two years ago, they (administration)

changed the process, giving the council less oversight,” Hooser

said.

Performance audits would be contracted just as financial audits

currently are, according to Hooser.

“It doesn’t cost anything to approve

this. It doesn’t cost anything unless we use it,” he said.

Staff

writer Dennis Wilken can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) and

dwilken@pulitzer.net

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