The Honolulu City Council will weigh the appointment of a new city auditor this week after a search committee selected a woman with experience on the mainland to fill the role, more than two years after the previous auditor retired.

If approved, Arushi Kumar, who has worked in Washington, D.C., and Seattle, would be the third city auditor to hold the job since it was created in 2010. She would serve a six-year term starting in December. Her appointment is up for a hearing by the council’s Budget Committee on Wednesday. 

“What drew me to the opportunity was to be able to work at the local level and apply what I’ve learned at the federal level in a community that has a rich culture,” Kumar said Monday in an interview.

Honolulu City Council members with socially distanced with plexiglass between each member at Honolulu Hale. March 17, 2021
The Honolulu City Council must give final approval for a new city auditor. The role has been filled on an interim basis since Edwin Young retired in 2019. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Edwin Young, the previous auditor, retired in February 2019 after nearly nine years on the job. Since then, the position has been held by interim City Auditor Troy Shimasaki.

Young has since been involved in a panel launched by House Speaker Scott Saiki to evaluate the state auditor’s office amid concerns about missed deadlines and “unnecessary litigation.”

The city auditor’s main duties include financial audits of the city and performance audits of funding programs and operations as requested by agencies or the city. The Office of the City Auditor is composed of 13 employees and is attached to the legislative branch under City Council auspices.

The special auditor search committee chose Kumar from 15 applicants.

The initial goal was to fill the position by June 2019, and Shimasaki was recommended for the job, but he didn’t obtain a certificate as a certified internal auditor or a certified public accountant as required before the deadline, according to background information provided by Resolution 21-154

The search was further prolonged when the application deadline was extended to June 21 from April 30.

Arushi Kumar has been selected for city auditor. It's now up to the City Council for final approval.
Arushi Kumar has been nominated to be Honolulu city auditor. The City Council must give final approval. Courtesy: Arushi Kumar

Kumar previously worked as a fiscal and policy analyst in Seattle managing a budget of $350 million. She was also an auditor for the U.S. State Government Accountability Office. She received her bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia.

“I’m excited to see what she does, and I’m hoping the council members will approve her,” said Natalie Iwasa, who is on the search committee. 

In a letter to the Honolulu Special Auditor Search Committee, Kumar acknowledged that her understanding of Honolulu issues may differ from her experience working on the mainland. 

“One might wonder how an individual who was born and raised, and has only ever lived, on the mainland would be qualified to acknowledge, understand, and appreciate issues that are unique and specific to Honolulu,” she said in the letter. “I admit that my knowledge at this time might be limited or less intimate than that of other candidates.”

“However, one quality that I have proudly carried with me through all personal and professional endeavors is empathy,” she continued. “My brief visits to Oahu as a tourist introduced me to some of the challenges that may accompany living in such a naturally beautiful land. Although I am comfortable in my responsibilities as an audit supervisor, my first priorities in this role would be to acknowledge all that I do not know about the culture in which I am working, and then start to learn.”

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