City taxpayers have paid more than 100 million dollars for rail project change orders. Last June, Legislative Auditors interviewed the city’s purchasing division administrator, Wendy Imamura. She was the one to help draft the original request for the railroad project presentation.
Imamura taped the interview, which was later acquired by Hawaii News Now at the request supported by Open Records Law. It indicates that Randal Lee, a circuit judge in retirement, and Daniel Hanagami, an investigator, examined several kinds of rail expenses. Among those were over 13 million dollars in change orders for the Campbell Industrial Park casting yard, 9 million dollars for commercial insurance coverage, as well as 78 million dollars for disposing of claims arising from a lawsuit regarding the project’s archeological inventory.
The lawsuit by a cultural practitioner, Paulette Kaleikini, resulted in a delay in the project which set it back by 18 months. However, Hanagami and Lee pointed out that the contractor, based on the project requirements and the arrangement made with the construction company Kiewit, would have to pay for that, as well as any other potential setbacks.
Lee stated that he found that both the casting yard and insurance were the responsibility of the design-builder. Imamura agreed, saying that the precast yard is the contractor’s problem. She added that the contractor would also be responsible for insurance in case the Owner Controlled Insurance Program at the time of contract execution wasn’t in place.
The Honolulu Rapid Transportation Authority stated that it reimbursed Kiewit only partially for the yard costs since the Federal Transit Administration refused the initial site proposition. They said that the change order was publicly and carefully inspected. They assured the public that they take contracting seriously and that all change orders are transparent and diligent.
HART claims that the decisions they made were appropriate and that they stand by them. Still, many lawmakers are pretty concerned.
Sylvia Luke, chair of the House Finance Committee, said that the city administration and HART blamed either the utility lines, the moving, delay, or litigation for the increase in costs. Yet, she added, none of those was the reason behind the whole ordeal. She said that if the federal funds are involved in the situation, it could result in another federal investigation.
That separate investigation, which included Hanagami, demanded numerous contracts and change orders, as well as some other documents, be submitted to a court of law. However, that investigation was never concluded — just a month after the interview with Imamura, it was terminated.