Auditors say Honolulu Fire Department needs to improve overtime pay documentation

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu’s budget and fiscal investigators said the Honolulu Fire Department did not intentionally misuse funds to pay overtime, but they did find flaws in its administrative process.

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The City’s investigation focused on overtime records linked to the Charles H. Thurston Training Center. The audit was prompted by allegations of construction at the training center without proper permits. Those same allegations claimed that HFD employees had worked overtime to complete the construction.

An HFD spokesperson said the investigation, which has been completed, revealed that the construction was determined to be connected to training props for classes. The department did not require a permit.

Through the audit, investigators found 390 hours of overtime transactions since 2015 in a sample of 45 fire department employees. A third of those hours lacked proper documentation.

Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves told the Honolulu City Council that the department needs to improve on its administrative duties.

“This audit already told us what we knew, is that we are not good at paperwork and we are working hard,” Neves said. “In 42 years, I never saw one resume that said I want to be a firefighter so we can fill out forms.”

Auditors said keeping track of forms that justify spending is crucial to prevent misuse of funds or the perception of it.

The review recommended that the department develop clear overtime-use policies and train employees on the changes. They said overtime hours need to be documented with approval from a supervisor.

Honolulu Fire Assitant, Chief Jason Samala, was tasked with mitigation of the department’s paperwork procedures.

“We understand that the existing one was weak and it lacked measures in place to provide appropriate oversight for overtime, so we did a complete overhaul of that,” Samala said.

The department is also being asked to improve its checks and balances on expenses through the use of a city purchase card. Investigators found one person was in charge of procurements and that same person would also verify the transactions.

The city auditors concluded this was an oversight that went on for years, but that they do not believe it was done with malice.

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