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The Office of Inspector General has reviewed selected aspects of the Hawaiian Homes Commission programs operated by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), State of Hawaii. The review was requested by the Under Secretary, Department of the Interior, in February 1982 to determine if the Department of the Interior has adequately executed its trust responsibilities for programs and activities of the Hawaiian Homes Commission as provided by the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920 (Act) and the Hawaii Admission Act of 1959.

The actual role of the Department of the Interior in the affairs of the Hawaiian Homes Commission after Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959 has been very limited. The Assistant Secretary of the Interior, in a 1972 memorandum to the Director, DHHL, considered the Department of Interior's role as a "ministerial" function. Specifically, this "ministerial" role related to approval of the exchange of title to available lands for publicly or privately-owned lands of an equal value, as allowed under the Act. The Assistant Secretary commenting on the Secretary's approval role under Section 204(4) of the Act stated in the memorandum that...

Such approval by the Secretary is considered by the Department to be a ministerial, nondiscretionary act which he cannot perform until after the Governor has acted. The lack of suitable personnel representing the Department of the Interior in Hawaii to investigate the proposed land exchanges reflects the ministerial nature of the Secretary's function. Thus, Section 204(4), insofar as it requires the Secretary's approval in cases involving land exchanges, represents something of an anachronism which has carried over from the days of territorial status when Hawaii was under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior.

Thus, the Secretary's role since statehood appears to have been of a ministerial nature until March 17, 1980, when attorneys representing native Hawaiian individuals petitioned the Secretary of the Interior and the United States Department of Justice to take action to enforce the provisions of the Act.

Our review conducted in Hawaii from March 9, 1982 through May 13, 1982, was primarily directed to determining how well the intent and provisions of the Act have been carried out, whether all of the land provided by the Act has been properly accounted for, whether the procedures followed in leasing lands were being conducted in the best interests of the program, and whether financial accountability over the financial affairs of the DHHL is adequate. Due to time constraints, complexity of the programs, lack of financial statements, and the number of years the Act has been in existence, we did not review certain aspects of DHHL activities in the depth we originally anticipated. For example, we limited our financial audit effort because complete financial statements had not been prepared for all funds since 1972.


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