County Auditor reduces budget 11%

LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i County Council had little issue with the County Auditor’s FY2012-13 budget request.

County Auditor Ernesto Pasion and audit manager Lani Nakazawa presented a $1.56 million budget that is 11 percent less than the previous year.

Operations costs of $826,000 represents 53 percent of the department’s overall budget, and was cut 23 percent from 2011 budget, where it made up 61.5 percent.

Council members questioned why wages and salaries increased 6.3 percent. Pasion attributed it to a reallocation of funds to address technical and program assistant positions at a significant time of the year.

Benefits also increased by 12.8 percent. Pasion said it is due to an increase in wages, and the benefits factor is mandated by the Finance Department.

The office staff includes the County Auditor, the audit manager, staff internal auditor, program audit analyst, and a department staff assistant. Other human resources funding requested is related to third-party contracts for specialized professional services, such as private investigators.

Councilmember Nadine Nakamura expressed concern for the auditor’s lack of detail with anticipated expenditures and estimated overtime.

Pasion said the projections are based on anticipated work load.

Councilmember Mel Rapozo said the auditor may make additional requests for funding throughout the fiscal year through a council request for a budget resolution. He said this would help reconcile discrepancies that appear with follow-up reports.

Councilmembers noted that budget plans would help them request additional support for audits they see as necessary. Pasion said it was difficult to assess that need accurately until they are “in the trenches” during an audit.

Council Chair Jay Furfaro said that in order for the council to approve any budget changes, it must have an updated business plan by June 30.

Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura encouraged the auditor to address inaccuracies and overpayments in the county’s payroll system. She said she would like a closer look at manual processes to ensure the county becomes completely automated

Furfaro questioned the auditor’s request to have the county attorney provide special council to the auditor. He said it was unprecedented until this year, when four departments made similar requests.

Pasion said the auditor needs independence, including external peer reviews and to attest findings and recommendations. The First Deputy County Attorney is assigned as legal counsel to the auditor, according to Fufaro.

Pasion said this is an adversarial relationship where the charter could present a potential conflict in the course of their work.

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