A Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) employee sent a report to state lawmakers and the press alleging members of the agency have engaged in corruption and waste, according to an April 8 Hawaii News Now article.
Peter Oshiro is a 33-year DOH employee and currently works as the chief of the agency’s Food Safety Branch. In his report, Oshiro alleges that other managers in the department have engaged in behavior that is both self-serving and harmful to taxpayers. Oshiro alleges that “his division’s boss, DOH Deputy Director Keith Kawaoka, hasn’t hired a division administrator for about five years,” according to the article. This lack of action prompts the other managers to be “given temporary promotions at higher pay to be acting administrators.”
“It becomes lining their pockets because the managers know that every time you do this, you get a pay raise,” Oshiro said. He alleges that decisions of mismanagement like this one have wasted “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Oshiro provides another example of waste, stating that the agency “bought a theft alarm system five years ago, paying $277 a month in service fees, or a total of about $20,000.” However, he alleges that the alarm system was never used. “Oh my God this system has never been set since the day it was installed. Not once was it ever activated,” Oshiro said, according to Hawaii News Now.
Oshiro also alleges that the DOH is failing to properly protect the public, providing an example related to the Food and Drug branch. He states that the branch “is supposed to conduct inspections of local drug and food manufactures” and the “medical cannabis industry.” However, he alleges that these inspections have not taken place. “In two years, none of these people have been inspected,” Oshiro said, according to the article.
Oshiro believes that an independent agency should audit the DOH. State Representative Ryan Yamane, the Head of the House Health Committee, said in the article: “We are open to looking at audits — managerial and fiscal — as we move forward, especially for next year.”
DOH’s Director of Health Dr. Libby Char issued a statement about Oshiro’s allegations. “We are always open to feedback from employees on ways to improve processes and increase our efficiency, and it is unfortunate this employee felt sharing his personal perspectives with legislators was the best way to resolve his concerns,” the statement reads. “At this point, it is difficult for us to provide a substantive response to the allegations raised by this Department of Health employee.”
Dr. Char’s statement expresses that DOH needs to further analyze Oshiro’s allegations but says: “We intend to also work with legislators and acknowledge their oversight as we evaluate the allegations.”
However, according to the article, “Oshiro said he tried to set up meetings with Char seven times in recent months but was rebuffed.”