The Hawaii State Board of Education‘s audit plans are beginning to take shape with a freshly inked charter document, two task forces to investigate policies and a call for a better systemwide strategic plan.

The new appointed board’s chairman, Don Horner, has made numerous though unspecific references to audits since he was tapped by the governor in March, and even established an audit committee as one of his first acts as chairman. He declined to go into detail about what the audit committee would do, telling Civil Beat in an email, “I prefer to work through the audit committee, not media.”

True to his word, he began clarifying his intentions at the audit committee’s inaugural meeting on May 17.

The audit committee passed a charter document outlining its mission and duties. Its purpose is to provide

…oversight assistance to the Department of Education’s Board of
Education (“BOE”) in fulfilling their responsibilities relating to:

A. The integrity of the Department of Education’s (“DOE”) financial statements;

B. The DOE’s compliance with legal and regulatory requirements;

C. The qualifications, independence and performance of the external auditors;

D. Monitoring the performance of the DOE’s internal audit activities; and

E. The business practices and ethical standards of the DOE.

The committee’s actual practices and procedures will “remain flexible,” the document states, but will be designed to ensure that the Department of Education fulfills all its requirements with integrity:

  • Risk assessment process.
  • Accounting and financial reporting process.
  • Internal controls.
  • Internal and external auditing.
  • Other compliance programs.

The audit committee will begin by reviewing a lot of the policies and processes in place. In its first meeting, it commissioned two task forces: One to investigate Board of Education policies and another to examine state statutes.

Horner said his goal is to identify statutes that need to be amended or eliminated, and present the changes in a single omnibus bill during the next legislative session.

One interesting thing about the newly adopted charter document is that in addition to saying what the committee can do, it also establishes what it can’t do. It tells us that the audit committee will not be planning or conducting audits or determining for itself the accuracy of financial statements.

“My goal is to push further and to delegate authority,” Horner told Civil Beat. “It is only fair if we ask the superintendent to take responsibility, that we give her authority. With that authority comes an obligation to accountability and transparency.”

Toward that end, he said, he has asked Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi to present a more comprehensive strategic plan for the Department of Education than the one approved earlier this year by the appointed board’s predecessors. Voters in November tossed out the elected board and replaced it with one appointed by the governor.

“In my opinion, that was not a strategic plan,” Horner said. “I said that in an open forum at the meeting that it’s a very important set of objectives, but those need to be tied to strategies and tactics. It’s one thing to set an objective three years from now, but the board is also concerned with milestones and the process gone through to achieve those objectives.”

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