Ka Wai Ola

Photo: Brendon Kalei'aina Lee

Aloha Kākou,

In January 2019 I spoke about the work ahead for the Office of Hawaiian Affair’s strategic plan. While that has been an ongoing project, your Trustees have taken on another monumental task of taking a hard look at the Office of Hawaiian Affair’s governance model, structure and implementation. On January 24, 2019 the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to form a Permitted Interaction Group to take on this very task. The Permitted Interaction Group was to consist of myself as chair, Chairperson Trustee Machado, Trustee Waihe’e, Trustee Robert Lindsey, all our respective staff, Ka Pounui Sylvia Hussey as project manager, Ka Pou Hana Kamana‘opono Crabbe, administration staff, corp council, and staff from research.

We were given an aggressive timeline of 4 weeks to complete our work. This was to consist of analyzing our current by-laws, policies, procedures, advocacy platforms, and the last 5 years of Board of Trustee action items. We also had a mo‘okuauhau of all current policies drawn up, so we have a history and understanding of how these were developed over time. A study of how the other Ali‘i Trusts govern themselves, other native groups and governments both on the continent and abroad, with an international context, were looked at.

After many hours of research and meetings here are the outcomes of this group’s efforts. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is restructuring it governance starting from the top down. These 5 elements were adopted by the Board of Trustees which will carry us forward to the next phases of the transition into new governance;

  1. Identity: Ho‘oulu Lāhui Aloha, a State Agency with the responsibility to manage a Trust, that identifies and operates more similarly to Ali‘i Trusts with a lāhui mindset
  2. Values and Mana: Acknowledging the surrounding intangible yet invaluable roles of this in governance
  3. Statutory Basis: OHA was established under the Hawai‘i Constitution, article XII, section 5, with powers described in article XII, section 6, HRS chapter 10 provides that OHA is meant to address the needs of the Native Hawaiian People.
  4. Policies: There will be 3 distinct levels of policies. L-Lāhui Policies / T-Trustee Policies / C-CEO policies.
  5. Supporting documents and Practices: BOT Executive Policy Manual, Operations Manual, standard operating procedures, guidelines, operating manual, and consistent practices.

The development of Lāhui policies is a new concept for OHA and at the time of this printing the work of that Permitted Interactive Group will have been completed and the next Group working on updating and revamping the by-laws will be half way thru their work. Other Groups will follow in suit to address Trustee Level Policies, CEO Level Policies, supporting documents and an implementation Permitted Interaction Group to oversee the seamless transition over the newly drafted documents and that no holes are missed.

This is an exciting time at OHA. Between a new governance model, which will be more efficient, transparent, and with more accountability, and the coinciding work on the strategic plan there is much for beneficiaries to look forward to in the coming year.