For my family and friends ™ (haolegirl) wrote,
For my family and friends ™

OHA fails Hawaiians... but I already knew that

As a Hawaiian I do alright without the help of the Office of Hawaiian affairs (a.k.a. "OHA") but there are MANY Hawaiians who need help. OHA is mandated BY LAW to help Hawaiians as well but they fall short. That is, they fail Hawaiians which is against the law!

I just had a conversation with my middle niece, Moon, and I told her that she and I are considered "rich" Hawaiians. She asked me about some poor Hawaiians. I told her that we don't want to forget about those less fortunate than us. I asked her if she was poor would she want people to forget about her??? One of my philosophies in life is that as a poor child I felt as though many people, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian, forgot about me. I don't want Hawaiians less fortunate than me to ever be forgotten because I didn't want to be forgotten when I was poor so I dedicate this post to the poor Hawaiians who are still struggling. I have not nor will I ever forget about you and I don't care what some people say that Hawaiians have it so good. I know from personal experience that that is untrue and inaccurate so I will never ever listen to these people.

Anyway here is the article in today's paper which uncovers how OHA continues to fail Hawaiians thus violating the law. (Damn hypocrits!):

Auditor: OHA falls short on its obligations

By Mike Leidemann

After 25 years of operation, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is still run like a fledgling agency, with no master plan and questionable accounting of its more than $300 million in assets, the state auditor said yesterday.

"Overall, OHA has shown little improvement in meeting its obligation to improve conditions of all Hawaiians," state auditor Marion Higa concluded in a new audit, the latest in a series of critical reviews.

OHA's administrator, Clyde Numu'o, bristled at the report's language, saying it overstates the audit's findings and ignores many good things the agency has accomplished in recent years.

"It's offensive to those of us who are working so hard here," Numu'o said. "They are absolutely ignoring a lot of the good work OHA has done. That's what bothers me the most. We've given out more than $5 million in community grants in recent years. Ask those people if they think we are a fledgling organization."

The main problem, Higa said, is that the independent state agency has yet to develop a comprehensive master plan to marshal public and private resources to fulfill its constitutional mandate to help Native Hawaiians.

"It is still struggling to put its own house in order and remains casual in the administration of the funds over which it has a fiduciary duty of loyalty to its beneficiaries," Higa said.

While OHA hasn't published a master plan, it has accomplished most of the things in its legal mandate under a strategic operations plan that has been in place for years, Numu'o said.

Lela Hubbard, founder of the Hawaiian sovereignty group Na Koa Ikaika and a sometimes OHA critic, said the agency has improved in recent years.

"I see a big improvement in their relationship with the beneficiaries," she said. "They're definitely reaching out to more Hawaiians. Things still move slowly, but they used to move like molasses. It's taken a long time, but finally they are really looking out for the benefit of the Hawaiians."

    Among the findings in the latest report and responses by Numu'o:

  • Despite at least three previous recommendations, OHA has never developed a comprehensive master plan for Native Hawaiian services and activities. "The plan is critical," the audit said.

    "The only thing we've never done is formally publish a master plan," Numu'o said. "So the audit concludes that nothing more can be done. In fact, all the elements of the law are in place. Ninety-five percent of what's required has been done."

  • The agency is still grappling with effects of a poorly planned reorganization in 2001 that resulted in the resignation of half the division-level officers and severe morale problems throughout the staff. "OHA is still reeling," the report said.

    Numu'o said that might have been true more than a year ago when auditors visited OHA's offices, but "those charges are no longer relevant. We've moved way beyond that issue, but the auditors never came back to do a follow-up visit."

  • OHA lacks adequate accounting control over its finances, with possible abuses noted in its protocol funds, petty cash and trustee accounts, and needs tighter oversight of its Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund, which provides business loans of up to $75,000 on favorable terms to Hawaiians who can't get conventional financing.

Of the 121 outstanding loans totaling more than $3.3 million, half were in default, meaning payments had stopped altogether, and 20 more were delinquent. As a result, the fund "continues to lose resources that future Hawaiian entrepreneurs could benefit from," the audit concluded.

Numu'o said the auditors included nonperforming loan amounts that OHA intended to write off, which have left a default and delinquency rate of only 10 percent to 15 percent.

State auditors, however, stood by their calculations, saying they gave a fairer overall assessment of the loan fund's status.

Hubbard said OHA could improve the way it handles and accounts for its money.

"I'm still critical about the way they tally up costs for projects," she said. "Sometimes you can't follow where the money is going."

An attached audit conducted on behalf of the state by the private KPMG firm reviewed OHA's investment portfolio and found the "agency has taken a number of important and well-reasoned steps in investing its assets," retaining two investment advisers to oversee selected money managers.

However, KPMG also found that OHA's investment oversight procedures still lack some key components and prevent the board of trustees from receiving sufficient information to evaluate the advisers' performance.

Seen at

What is OHA?

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs was established under a 1978 constitutional amendment as the principal way for state government to meet its trust responsibilities to Native Hawaiians.

As an independent state agency, it is charged with developing and coordinating programs and activities for Hawaiians in Hawai'i.

Last year, OHA had revenues of more than $28.7 million, most of it coming from its public land trust and dividend and interest income.

Some of this money is set aside for various public projects, including grants to Hawaiian service agencies such as Alu Like and a wide range of nonprofit groups that fulfill community needs such as education, health and legal aid.

OHA offers loans to support business startups and to help individuals with short-term needs. OHA also spends some of its budget on advocacy in court actions defending Hawaiian entitlements.

It's also been a political actor, lobbying in Washington, D.C., in support of federal recognition of Native Hawaiians and helping to underwrite the drive to register Hawaiians to vote, anticipating the formation of a political entity recognized by the federal government.

The organization is governed by a board of nine elected trustees and has an administrator who is responsible for executive board policies and carrying out the agency's goals and objectives.
Tags: oha, oha fails hawaiians

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