(Star Advertiser) Honolulu Council formally calls for forensic audit of rail

Honolulu Council formally calls for forensic audit of rail

(Source: Star Advertiser)

A statement calling for an independent forensic audit of the city’s $9.2 billion rail project was adopted unanimously Friday by the Honolulu City Council.

Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi introduced Resolution 19-29, insisting that Oahu residents are demanding to know why the project cost has more than doubled and why the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, the agency tasked with overseeing construction of the state’s largest public works project, has been hit with three federal subpoenas requiring that records be turned over.

The final draft of the resolution calls for the Office of the City Auditor to oversee the audit, but acting city Auditor Troy Shimasaki reiterated his agency’s position that the office does not have the resources or the expertise to conduct such an audit and that a private contractor would have to be hired to do the job.

The HART board last week voted to issue its own resolution to the Council urging members to hold off on initiating an audit until after the federal investigation is over.

Before Friday’s vote, Council members deliberated at length on the exact language of the resolution. Budget Chairman Joey Manahan asked for it to be sent back to his committee for more work but was voted down. He then asked that language be inserted saying that an audit be conducted only after the conclusion of any ongoing criminal investigations of the project, which is essentially what the HART board had requested.

Tsuyenoshi objected, stating answers are needed now. “This forensic audit is to get answers that we need before we move forward on any further decisions on this project,” she said. “I do believe that we need to take action now.”

Councilman Mike Formby, a former city transportation services director and interim HART director, agreed with Tsuneyoshi. “The Legislature is talking about looking at a criminal investigation, they’re talking about possibly postponing … two audits,” he said. “I think it’s time for the Council to take a policy position on this.”

Council Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said she inserted $2 million into the Council budget for the forensic audit, and Manahan said he would support the appropriation.

A majority of those testifying on the resolution said it’s about time.

Mililani resident Rita Kama-Kimura called a forensic audit overdue. “If this project were a private-sector project, people would have been held accountable to the point where jobs were lost,” Kama-Kimura said. “But since this is overseen by government agencies, nothing has happened. We as taxpayers have the right to know what is happening.”

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