Audit: County in need of training

An independent county audit report reveals several shortcomings last fiscal year and several items that remain unresolved from 2006, but department heads avow corrective actions are underway.

County Finance Director Wally Rezentes Jr. told the Kaua‘i County Council yesterday at the Historic County Building that Honolulu-based consulting firm KMH’s March findings will not jeopardize future funding.

The administration is “doing a lot of things right” and working to ensure past mistakes are not repeated, Councilman Ron Kouchi said.

“The bottom line is we need to put things together, get on the same page and move forward,” he said.

Councilman Jay Furfaro, who chairs the Finance Committee, kept the discussion brief. He asked division heads if there were any urgent compliance issues and how they were addressing them.

The seven-member legislative body, which excused as absent yesterday council members Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and Mel Rapozo, will delve into the specifics of the audit report in two weeks, he said.

Furfaro has requested the auditors and the administration to be present at the June 18 council committee meeting to go over the findings in detail.

The move gives the administration extra time “in the spirit of fair play” to come ready to discuss what corrective actions have been put in motion, he said.

Gary Mackler, county Housing Agency development coordinator, thanked the council for laying out a schedule that provides a reasonable amount of time to effectively respond.

That agency, along with the Public Works, Accounting, Transportation and Civil Defense departments, is working to resolve several issues identified in the past two years’ independent audit reports.

KMH identified 11 items in 2006 that required corrective action. Four have been resolved.

The 2007 audit, managed by KMH’s Robin Freitas, found 16 areas falling short of compliance.

They include improper loan practices, a failure to submit timely reports and inapt recording of construction costs.

An underlying issue, according to council members’ comments and KMH recommendations, is insufficient training and short-staffed departments.

Repeated violations could jeopardize programs and decrease the county’s chances of a successful defense on any recourse to the funds dispersed, the audit states.

Many of the findings in the audit have already been rectified, according to county officials.

Some council members view the audit as an opportunity to outline corrective actions, Councilman Tim Bynum said, others use it as a chance to criticize.

It would be unrealistic to expect no findings, he said after the meeting.

Some division heads, such as Elton Ushio of the Civil Defense Agency, said he views the KMH staff as the friendly auditors that help the county get its ducks in a row before the federal audit which can carry serious consequences.

The KMH auditors gave the council a briefing last week at its meeting.

Furfaro said then that some of the audit’s findings show the county “may need consulting support to help with training and policies.”

The officials said the county should establish a process that avoids relying on the auditors to catch its financial mistakes.

The county’s comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2007, is available at www.kauai.gov.

• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or neagle@kauaipubco.com

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