Audit: County hiring practices lacking

LIHUE — An audit of Kauai County’s Department of Human Resources found hiring practices lacking, potentially creating a situation in which personnel decisions regarding unskilled laborers can be made on something other than merit.

The performance audit, which was conducted by independent firm PKF Pacific Hawaii, examined the county’s personnel procedures from 2009 to 2013 to make sure the county is in compliance with the law, as well as its own policies.

The audit produced three main findings:

First, the county did not consistently adhere to Hawaii state law and its own policies when hiring.

Second, the county failed to consistently maintain supporting documentation for personnel decisions, which could potentially put the county in non-compliance with bargaining unit agreements.

Third, the audit cites the county for having a lack of controls that could in some instances subvert the merit-based hiring system.

“With few procedures in place for the recruitment of exempt positions, there is a higher risk that unqualified applicants are accepted or that the appointing authority is able to use bias in its selections,” the report reads.

The report does not specify any specific instances of individuals who were hired or promoted due to favoritism, and does not allege corruption.

Kauai County Human Resources Director Janine Rapozo said she welcomed the audit.

“I think overall audits are always helpful. We’re looking to always streamline and make government more efficient,” Rapozo said, adding that they are a useful tool to make sure necessary checks and balances are in place.

Rapozo pointed out that the audit spanned the time period before-and-after when human resource functions were consolidated into one central department in 2012, and said that many changes are already underway as a result of that reorganization.

At a meeting of the Kauai County Council on Wednesday, Council Chair Mel Rapozo (no relation to Janine Rapozo) said he was troubled by the audit’s findings, particularly when it comes to hiring unskilled laborers without interviews.

“The hiring for county workers should be equal and fair to all applicants, and the process they have with unskilled positions simply doesn’t provide for that,” Mel Rapozo said. “The number of instances where there was no documentation, missing files … Was an embarrassment for the department, for the county.”

The report offered several recommendations aimed at improving the system, which officials from the mayor’s administration said they agreed to make.

Among the recommendations, the report advises that the county reassess its hiring procedures to make them fair and consistent and to ensure they comply with state law. It also says the county should maintain all documents related to personnel activity so that decisions can be substantiated if ever called into question.

The auditor’s report is publicly available at www.kauai.gov.

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