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Tourism authority criticized in audit

By Allison Schaefers

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LAST UPDATED: 12:01 p.m. HST, Dec 11, 2013



A State Audit has criticized the Hawaii Tourism Authority for lacking the formal written policies, procedures and training to ensure adequate transparency and accountability for how it spends its marketing funds -- all problems that a previous auditor identified about a decade ago.

While Acting State Auditor Jan K. Yamane recognized that HTA had taken steps to address previously identified planning and performance monitoring deficiencies, she said in an audit published this month that  "more progress is needed to ensure transparency and accountability of tourism marketing efforts targeted at a visitor industry that generates$14.4 billion in economic activity yearly and represents 20 percent of Hawaii's economy."

Yamane's report said that the " authority's incohesive, self-described "marketing plan" and poor reporting on measures of effectiveness" impeded transparency. She said that these weaknesses contributed to inconsistencies in HTA's monitoring of 2012 expenditures, including $59 million in marketing contracts. Yamane faulted HTA for not ensuring that its contractors submit final reports and for not routinely conducting final contractor evaluations. Her report also found that contract files were missing key reports.

"The HTA's lack of policies, procedures, and training and its incomplete contract files are troubling since we found similar problems in our 2002 report," she said.

Hawaii Tourism Authority did not negate or dispute any of the audit's findings.

"The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) understands the value of independent feedback from those who are outside of our organization and we appreciate the recognition by the State Auditor of the progress we have made since the last audit," said HTA President and CEO Mike McCartney in a written statement. "At the HTA, we continue to evolve as we face new challenges."

 McCartney said over the last five years that the agency adopted the HTA Strategic Plan, addressed a challenging global tourism market to restore momentum and undertook a complete redesign of how it operates as an authority.

"While we have made significant progress in these areas and other areas as well, we know there is always room for growth and improvement," he said. "The recommendations included in the report will be used as a tool in our ongoing planning and integrated into our work plan as we strive to be more efficient, effective and productive."






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