Audit of the Department of Parks and Recreation Camping Operations
From Office of Honolulu City Auditor, October, 2012
The Honolulu City Council, with the mayor’s approval, enacted Ordinance 11-20 to establish a fee structure for the city’s camping program and a basis for improving and maintaining city campsites. We found, however, that camping program improvements intended by ordinance are not likely to be achieved.
More specifically, the parks and recreation department has not yet begun to collect camping permit fees because it implemented an online camping permit system without fee collection capability and opted to amend its camping rules before fee implementation. As a result, the city has foregone over $366,000 in estimated annual revenue. Because camping fees will be deposited into the general fund, rather than a special revenue account or other special fund, the parks and recreation department has no plan for how it intends to make improvements to the camping program. (Editor's Note: The akamai reader will question the use of the word 'because'.) Furthermore, administrative and convenience fees may be excessive and need to be justified before they are charged to the public. The ordinance’s fee structure and the department’s interpretation of those fees are contrary and need to be reconciled. The department’s estimates for camping program costs, revenues, and assumptions are inaccurate.
Security and camping facility improvements are top priorities for the camping program. Failure to improve security could result in increased complaints, jeopardize the physical security of campers, and expose the city to potential lawsuits. Failure to replace and improve camping facilities could exacerbate beach erosion; allow further deterioration of the wastewater and sanitation systems; and expose the city to environmental violations and lawsuits. In addition, potential loss of campsites would result in lost revenues from camping permit fees.
The parks and recreation department could make various administrative and managerial improvements, too. The department has implemented an online camping permit program and hired a camping specialist to focus on the camping program. However, more could be done. The department should establish a formal camping program and a camping manual to standardize camping operations. The department should also implement a web-based quality assurance program to improve program quality and ensure its online camping permit system and third party vendors comply with e-commerce requirements. Failure to address these issues could adversely affect citizen perceptions of the camping program and expose the city to financial losses.
LINK: FULL TEXT
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Oahu voters will be asked on the general election ballot to consider two proposed amendments to the City Charter:
>> “Shall the revised City Charter be amended to authorize the city council, on its own initiative or on the recommendation of the mayor, to establish funds to ensure that, when appropriate, monies collected by the city from licenses, fees, taxes and other revenue sources are set aside and expended for their intended public purposes?
AMUSING SIDESHOW at Civil Beat: Audit: Inability to Collect Camping Fees Cost Honolulu $366,000 -- Omidyar Fellow Forrest Frizzell, Honolulu IT Director, responds to Omidyar’s Civil Beat: “Another half Truth article by tabloid writer Nick Grube. The on-line portal was built to collect fees. He knows this, he just likes writing slam articles with out doing research. We alerted the audit team that the portal could collect fees. We spent a lot of time talking through this. It will use Paypal (owned by Omidyar) to collect fees but collection decisions aren't made by IT, we just build.”
You may obtain available permits on-line at https://camping.honolulu.gov