The controversial demolition of the Old Wailuku Post Office is on a list of proposed audits that Maui County Auditor Lance Taguchi plans to conduct by the end of the fiscal year in June.
On Friday, Taguchi told The Maui News that he does not have a timeline as to when the actual audit will begin or conclude. He added that estimating the timeline for any audit would be difficult because of variable factors such as how quickly information can be obtained and how the audit can change depending on what type of information is discovered.
Taguchi said he does intend to begin the actual audit process that includes contacting county departments for information by the end of the fiscal year June 30.
The Old Wailuku Post Office audit was on a list of four audits he sent to Mayor Alan Arakawa and the Maui County Council on Wednesday. Taguchi said county attorneys had told him he did not have to submit an audit list to the mayor or the council for this fiscal year because he only took office - which is new, added by voters in the 2012 election - at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1. He chose to come up with the list anyway.
The County Council had been awaiting Taguchi's decision. The council Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee in October deferred action on its investigation into the "potential misuse of county funds" by the Arakawa administration in the Old Wailuku Post Office matter until Taguchi made his list of audits available.
The controversy stems from the demolition of the Old Wailuku Post Office last year with funds earmarked for the rehabilitation of the building. Arakawa and administration officials have apologized and admitted that the budget should have been amended by the council to reflect the demolition.
Taguchi said that putting the politics of the situation aside, he felt examining the funding for the Old Wailuku Post Office demolition was worth looking into.
"I believe this is a situation that obviously something went wrong," he said. "I think it's a good opportunity to take a look at it and make recommendations to make improvements."
Council Member Mike White, who has been supportive of an investigation, said Friday that he was "happy to see it's on the list." He felt the demolition of the Old Wailuku Post Office was an important matter to review.
Maui County Communications Director Rod Antone, speaking for the administration, referred to his previous comments in which he said the administration "thinks the issue is dead already" because the council voted in November to approve $1.5 million for the design of a new office building on the site of the old post office. Council members have said they support the new office building but had questions about whether the procedure was proper.
He said a Taguchi audit may find a technical error but nothing "insidious."
There is another "self-initiated" audit on Taguchi's list - to examine the treasury function of the Department of Finance. Taguchi said that the department's treasury has about $300 million to $400 million, which includes money from property taxes, fees and the county's open space fund.
He said that a recent external audit identified some problems, including issues with timely bank reconciliations, so he decided to look into it. Taguchi did not want to speak for those involved with the treasury but did say that there has been some turnover and personnel changes.
Antone said the administration is looking forward to the audit and that Taguchi could be correct in his theory that the personnel changes may have affected performance.
Taguchi's other two projects are charter-mandated.
One is the oversight of the ongoing independent financial audit of Maui County for fiscal 2013. The audit includes the basic financial statements in the county's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, audit of the financial statements of the Department of Water Supply and single audit reports of federal financial assistance programs.
The second project is the independent annual financial audit of Maui County. This involves the contracting and oversight of the independent financial audits of Maui County for fiscal years 2014 to 2018.
Taguchi said his office has given priority to these two projects because they are mandated by the charter.
The projects used to come under the oversight of Council Services.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.