Improving our budget process

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Dan Ahuna, Vice Chair, Trustee, Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihauIn April, my Ka Wai Ola piece was focused on OHA’s dual mission, where I explained,

“According to HRS Chapter 10, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has two competing missions that work in opposition of each other. On one hand, OHA is responsible for fiscally managing the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund (NHTF) to ensure its future spending power is preserved and enhanced for use by our future beneficiary generations. On the other hand, we are expected to spend money in the present moment to better the conditions of our beneficiaries.”

As the Chair of the Committee on Resource Management, I would like to provide you an update on how we are moving forward with reconciling the dual missions of OHA and how this relates to our financial resource management and reporting.

Having dual missions means having two different objectives. However, these two missions are funded predominantly by the same funding source, the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund (NHTF). This means that we need to use the one pot of money to fund both our investments in order to keep the fund secure for future generations, while also using the fund to spend on our current overhead costs as well as the grants, loans, sponsorships, and contracts we offer to our community. Therefore, to organize our financial resources to align with our dual missions we are shifting our perspective from one general pot of financial resources to a bifurcated pot of financial resources broken up into Core and Non-core.

Let me explain the difference.

Core financial resources are about budget stabilization, ensuring the budget to operate OHA is consistent with our legal mandate and can be consistently funded. These Core operations and the money we allocate to them are mainly about maintaining compliance with HRS Chapter 10 in perpetuity. Some Core topics include:

  • provisos that are mandated by the Legislature
  • activities that are required, unchanged, untouched
  • ceded land payments
  • general appropriations
  • meeting compliance measures

Non-core functions are activities that are not necessarily directly mandated in HRS Chapter 10, but are nevertheless things that OHA feels the need to do in order to better the conditions of Native Hawaiians. The non-core are the value-added things that the organization is willing to do and take the risk doing to get exponential social and financial returns. Non-core items include:

  • funding new innovative programs and grants that build capacity (social capacity/capital)
  • developing Kaka‘ako Makai
  • looking at options for Nā Lama Kukui
  • establishing new ventures that are revenue-producing
  • distinguishing some of the land functions that have aspects of both core and non-core, based on how they are acquired and treated.

The Board of Trustees, administration, and our dedicated staff are diligently working out the details of organizing our financial resources to match up with the reality of our dual missions. Differentiating our financial resources into Core and Non-core functions is a major step in the direction of greater clarity, efficiency, efficacy, and ultimately impact in using the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund to its fullest potential for bettering the lives of Native Hawaiians. We look forward to keeping you updated on our fiscal sustainability plan and its progress.