A report released Thursday takes a state agency to task for not being more accountable for decisions involving taxpayer money.

According to a media statement issued by the Hawaii State Auditor, the Land Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources does not have “the staff, expertise, and resources to do anything other than continue business as usual.

That leaves the the Board of Land and Natural Resources “little choice but to extend the leases and, by our calculations, forego $1.6 million in potential revenue.”

Hawaii Waikiki
Cover art from the Audit of the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Special Land and Development Fund, June 27, 2019. Getty Images/iStockphoto

DLNR holds proceeds from more than 1,600 revenue-generating leases and revocable permits in its Special Land and Development Fund.

The fund in turn provides “critical funding for various DLNR divisions and offices” and supports natural disaster response and hazard mitigation efforts, conservation programs, and endangered and invasive species initiatives.

But, “Although the SLDF has become an increasingly important source of funding, the Land Division does not deem it necessary to develop a long-term strategic plan or asset management plan to guide the administration of the public lands in its portfolio.”

The audit added: “Without such plans, the Land Division’s management of its leases and revocable permits must resort to simply maintaining the status quo. We identified specific examples where this has resulted in the loss of higher revenues and limited the opportunities for others to lease those properties,” said State Auditor Les Kondo.

The full audit includes a detailed, point-by-point response from BLNR Chair Suzanne Case.

It says in part, “The draft audit report includes useful recommendations in some instances about these practices, but also reaches a number of subjective conclusions based on the Auditor’s interpretation of the public trust.”

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