Honolulu Councilmember wants Board of Water Supply audit

Honolulu Councilmember Ron Menor has introduced Resolution 13-201, which calls on the City Auditor to conduct a comprehensive management and performance audit of the Board of Water Supply (BWS).

The BWS has been heavily criticized since it switched from a bi-monthly to a once a month billing system earlier this year. The new billing system resulted in confusion and frustration for many water users.

Concerns have also been raised about the effectiveness and efficiency of the Board’s operations. In addition, councilmembers have received complaints from constituents about the long delays that they have been encountering when they have called BWS Customer Service for answers to their questions.

The last BWS audit, conducted in 2006, questioned the inability of the BWS to adequately devote resources to growing maintenance and repair needs while awarding bonuses and salary increases to BWS executives, and project management and accounting deficiencies. These and other findings resulted in the City Auditor making a total of 16 recommendations to address problems and issues. All 16 recommendations were either completed, resolved or dropped based on a status report by the City Auditor in May 2011.

An updated audit would examine the following:

  • Whether current management policies and procedures are helping the BWS to fulfill its core mission.
  • What performance measurements are being utilized to gauge the effectiveness and efficiency of BWS’ operations.
  • Which financial tools and controls are in place that provide assurances that the BWS is using taxpayer funds effectively and efficiently.
  • Whether the status of the BWS as a semi-autonomous agency should be maintained.

Councilmember Menor says that the audit should be conducted before the City Council takes any action to approve a ballot question shifting budgetary and other authority from the BWS to the City Council. Such a measure would need to be placed on the November 2014 ballot for voters to decide.

“While I have reservations about the City Council assuming more authority over BWS policies and programs, the Council has a responsibility to carefully review BWS’ management and operations given the public concerns that have been raised,” Menor said.

“The Council and general public would benefit from the kind of independent and objective analysis of BWS’ operations that the City auditor can provide. The Council supports the Board of Water Supply’s modernization efforts, yet at the same time, it must stick to its core mission of supplementing revenues in a manner that ensures that water rates and charges are fair and reasonable. This audit would ensure that the BWS is continuing to run efficiently and effectively for the sake of Oahu’s ratepayers.”

BWS Manager and Chief Engineer Ernest Lau says: “I understand the Council’s concerns and will work with the City Auditor on the proposed audit. I believe that its findings will contribute to our ongoing efforts to improve the operations of the BWS and our customer service, and address aging infrastructure challenges. Our mission is to provide the community with a safe, reliable and affordable water supply today and for generations to come.”

The BWS manages and operates Oahu’s water supply system, which provides about 145 million gallons of drinking water to over 900,000 residents. Total revenues for 2012-2013 were projected at about $184 million.

KHON2 has contacted the Board of Water Supply for a response on the audit.

We’ll have more details coming up on the KHON2 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

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