County to hear Kauai Humane Society audit results today

PUHI — The recently released Kauai Humane Society audit will be presented at today’s Kauai County Council meeting.

“I think they identified some opportunities for improvement and we need to take action on those,” said Scott Pisani, executive director of KHS. “There was no intentional misleading or anything like that, but if there’s things we aren’t doing good enough, then we need to get better at it.”

Diann Hartman, president of the KHS board of directors, agreed, noting it’s always beneficial to have “qualified outside eyes look in.”

“The audit pointed out some issues that had already been rectified with new and/or revised policies and procedures implemented during the three-year period examined in the audit, and brought to light things that can be further clarified in future county contracts,” Hartman said.

The county-mandated audit by Spire Hawaii LLP looked at KHS from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2015. It examined use of county funds, financial and statistical reporting, compliance with laws and regulations and the efficiency and effectiveness of internal controls and procedures during the period.

So far, the county has spent $64,094 of the allocated $67,500 for the project. The final amount will be available when all invoices are submitted, according to the county representatives, who reserved comment on the topic until after today’s County Council hearing.

The auditors came back with six findings with accompanying recommendations like more accurate reporting, a more clearly defined role for the county, and an update to euthanasia rules.

Inaccurate recordkeeping was noted in many of the findings, and was the source of several problems highlighted by the audit. In many cases, auditors found their access to records limited, or the records simply weren’t there.

“KHS refused to provide any documents or let us speak with anyone that was not involved with county activity,” the audit says. “We were also informed during our interviews that the data in PetPoint (KHS’s software reporting program) may neither be complete or accurate.”

Multiple variations of the animal outcome reports were received from the auditors, for instance, when the auditors requested animal statistics that were submitted to the county.

Keeping track of the allocation of county funds was also a challenge for KHS, auditors found.

For instance, money that was supposed to go toward county-related expenses went to things like a subscription to The Garden Island newspaper, holiday parties and incentive programs, according to the audit.

Field service officer pay is another example. Auditors found 11 of the 15 requested logs, or 73 percent, contained at least one instance of officers engaging in non-county-related activities.

Pisani said he’s open to the idea of tightening expenses reporting and interested in finding ways to make sure county money is used appropriately.

“If this isn’t working, then let’s find something that works,” he said. “Let’s come up with an allocation method that works that would be open and transparent to the public.”

To eliminate future discrepancies in allocations, KHS will be working with the county to determine consistent percentages to apply to expenses for each department.

“While animal control is the one department that is virtually fully dedicated to the county contract, we will determine a methodology and percentage for each department,” Hartman said. “For example, vet services, animal care, etc., that will be applied to all expenses relating to work pertaining to the county contract.”

There were also discrepancies found between the animal statistics reported to the county by KHS and the internal records. For example, KHS’s animal outcome reports show fewer adoption and returned to owner cases and more euthanasia cases than were reported to the county.

The discrepancies vary only by 1 percent in FY 2105 and FY 2013, and the audit only reported variances in FY 2014.

Intake for total number of animals in FY 2014, for instance, was reported at 4,380. Recalculations brought the number to 4,357 — a 23 animal overstatement. The number of animals euthanized in 2014 was understated by 99 animals, from the reported 2,615 to the recalculated 2,714.

Dog intake numbers for FY 2014 were overstated by 17, from the reported 1,907 to the recalculated 1,890. Cats were overstated by six, from 2,473 to the recalculated 2,467.

Euthanasia of dogs in FY 2014 was understated by 74, from the reported 588 to the recalculated 662, and euthanasia of cats was underreported by 25, from the reported 2,027 to the recalculated 2,052.

“KHS’ Animal Outcome Reports show fewer adoption and return to owner cases, and more euthanasia cases than what was reported to the county,” the audit says.

Hartman said KHS changed its reporting methodology to the nationally recognized system Asilomar Accords in FY 2015. She said that could have bearing on the statistics as KHS had previously counted owner requested euthanasia in its overall euthanasia statistics and per Asilomar this number is backed out.

“As noted in our comments to the audit’s specific findings, most of the issues noted were remedied through new software products used and the policies and procedures implemented beginning in fiscal year 2014, thus things have been ‘tightened up as most of the issues noted stemmed from the early part of the period audited,” Hartman said.

Euthanasia policy is also addressed in the audit, and the recommendation is to clarify the rules to allow euthanasia of all animals prior to the expiration of their hold period because it’s not specifically allowed under the current contract.

“We requested that the language be cleaned up. It’s pretty standard in most welfare organizations,” Pisani said. “Having said that, I want to see if there’s ways to save those animals whenever possible.”

But clarifying a rule that allows KHS to euthanize animals isn’t the answer, according to some members of the Kauai animal welfare community.

“What’s happened here is we had a strong-willed executive director who did what she wanted to do, and the protections were inadequate,” said Basil Scott, of Kauai Community Cat Project. “If we write laws, they ought to do it with the idea that can’t happen again.”

The former executive director of KHS, Penny Cistaro, retired in October. She joined KHS as the executive director in March 2013 and came into an organization that was “operationally in disarray and financially struggling,” she said.

“I worked hard to advance KHS and when I retired the organization had righted itself and was financially solvent,” Cistaro said. “I do not want to have toxic discussions regarding euthanasia and I will not respond to comments from the detractors.”

The plan to require an audit sprang forward in 2015 at the recommendation of Kauai Councilman Mel Rapozo, who proposed the idea citing questions about the internal controls and procedures.

The Kauai County Council gave its seal of approval of the plan that August.

The results will be presented in detail at today’s Kauai County Council meeting, and Pisani said he’d be there to answer questions during the public comment period.

“We embrace the opportunity to work with the county and the community,” Pisani said. “Where are we meeting expectations and where is more expected?”

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