OHA Board Approves Revisions to Trustee Protocol Allowance

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The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Board approved substantial revisions to its Trustee Protocol Allowance on Thursday, May 2, 2019, that reduce each trustee’s allowance; limit what the funds can be used for; and establish accountability safeguards, thereby addressing the state auditor’s concerns about the program.

“I thank my fellow trustees for their vote today to amend our Trustee Protocol Allowance policy,” said OHA Chair Colette Machado. “I want to specifically mahalo Trustee John Waiheʻe IV and our support staff for their hard work in re-drafting the policy, as well as Trustee Dan Ahuna, the chair of the Resource Management Committee, for shepherding the amendments through.”

“In February 2018, the state auditor highlighted several issues with the Trustee Protocol Allowance,” said Chair Machado. “The Board took those findings seriously and immediately implemented a moratorium on the program until policy amendments were approved. When I was re-elected as OHA Chair in December 2018, I made adopting revisions to the Trustee Protocol Allowance one of my priorities for the first part of this year. Today’s action further demonstrates the Board’s commitment to working together in the spirit of lōkahi to implement meaningful internal changes to better fulfill our fiduciary duties and meet the needs of our beneficiaries.”

The revisions to the Trustee Protocol Allowance were proposed by an Ad Hoc Committee on Grants and Sponsorships that was created by the OHA Board in August 2017. The Ad Hoc Committee consisted of Chair Machado, Trustee Waiheʻe, and board and administrative staff. The committee reviewed existing OHA policies, external guidelines, policies of other elected bodies, trustee fiduciary duties, the State Ethics Code, and audits of OHA and of other governing bodies. The committee also consulted on proposed amendments with Daniel Gluck, the Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi State Ethics Commission. In his written guidance to OHA, Gluck said he “appreciate[s] your efforts to promote the highest ethical standards within OHA.”


Key policy amendments to the Trustee Protocol Allowance include:

  • Reverting the program to its original purposes: establishing a communication network and promoting a broader understanding and participation in the resolution of Native Hawaiian issues;
  • Reducing the per trustee allocation from $22,200 to $7,200, which was the funding level prior to the enactment of policy amendments in 2013;
  • Making the Trustee Protocol Allowance a reimbursable fund, meaning trustees must pay for expenses on their own first and then be reimbursed;
  • Specifying allowable and disallowable expenses;
    Establishing an appeal process when determinations made by the administration disallows an expenditure; and
  • Requiring the posting on OHA’s website of quarterly expenditures reports from the Trustee Protocol Allowance by each trustee.

The revisions address eight of the ten state auditor recommendations for the trustee allowance program. The amendments direct the OHA administration to develop additional guidelines that will address the auditor’s remaining recommendations for the program.

“The Trustee Protocol Allowance revisions represent just one of a number of initiatives that are already underway to tighten up our policies to ensure more disciplined spending while increasing our transparency, accountability and ethical standards,” Trustee Waiheʻe said. “We understand there’s much work remaining, and we look forward to sharing our continued progress in the months ahead.”


The approval of the revisions lifts the moratorium on the Trustee Protocol Allowance. Trustees will have access to utilize the fund beginning July 1, 2019.

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