Fiscal Sustainability: Securing the Future of OHA


Is it time to update OHA’s fiscal sustainability plan?

Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, Trustee, Maui

When gathering limu, one must not pick the root to ensure that it can rejuvenate. This practice can be found throughout our culture and history. This idea that we must preserve the root, the source, or the principal, is fundamentally Hawaiian. This ideology is inherent to us, taught to us by our ancestors. Our kūpuna were the greatest stewards of their resources.

Here at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), the Board of Trustees, our executive team, and administration are tasked with the stewardship of the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund, land assets, and other revenues granted to OHA. We have been chosen by the lāhui to uphold the kuleana of ensuring the sustainability of OHA’s assets.

Like our kūpuna who were sustainable, and as one of the fiduciaries of OHA, I am proud to share with you some of the aspects of our Fiscal Sustainability Plan (FSP).

OHA was able to develop steps necessary to initiate the FSP. It involves the entire organization and requires that we look at OHA from a holistic perspective. There are two areas of improvement that the FSP addressed. The first is with our policies, and the second is with our administrative operations. For timely and efficient changes to occur, it will take interdisciplinary teams with voices that include the Trustees, executive management, and subject matter experts in the organization.

For instance, cross communication and open dialogue is critical when OHA attempts to change policies or strategizes on an initiative. When a proposal to amend a policy happens, it can affect the nature of our other policies. We cannot exclusively propose and amend policies without considering their impacts. One example is attempting to amend our spending policies and ignoring the impacts on our investment policies.

OHA is committed to ensuring services and programs are consistently available and delivered to our lāhui through fiscally responsible and sustainable spending. OHA will:

  • Adopt and implement a fiscal sustainability implementation plan.
  • Provide within it a financial structure that will establish fiscal objectives and result in increases to: 1) the value of OHA’s assets and endowments; and, 2) OHA’s capacity to deliver on its vision and mission.
  • Incorporate specific success indicators and report on our progress at year 1, year 3, and year 5 post-implementation.
  • Incorporate a code of ethics applicable to OHA Trustees, officers, and employees.

As for the BOT, we have engaged in serious deliberation regarding the areas where our policies can improve. This is done in concert with the appropriate executive members and managers who are in their respective roles overseeing day-to-day operations. It is important that the subject matter experts and managers are at the table so they can provide the necessary insights so the Trustees can develop policies to ensure fiscal sustainability.

The Board also officially adopted use of the financial analysis model developed by our consultant to help implement the operational aspects of the FSP. It is the financial tool that will help OHA’s administration to understand any impacts of administrative or operational changes on our financial standing in the short and long term.

Now is the time we look to our past to secure our future. We look to the example of our kūpuna and translate their ideology, innovations, and stewardship to our modern context.

E mau ana kākou i nā mea waiwai o ka lāhui.