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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 4, 2010

From virtuous to shoddy in only 7 years

In practically the same breath that she used to tear into Marion Higa for her latest blast against the administration, Gov. Linda Lingle admits that she used to be a big fan of the state auditor.

That's the understatement of the century. Here's a little history: While running for governor both in 1998 and 2002, Lingle brought Higa's past recommendations for achieving greater government efficiency right to the campaign stump, vowing to work with the auditor to identify potential areas for state savings.

"My first step as governor will be an independent audit in cooperation with state auditor Marion Higa," she said in 2002. "This is essential to sound decision-making."

It didn't take long for the limits of her admiration to become clear. The very first legislative session after Lingle's election, she vetoed bills to expand the auditor's functions. More recently, the administration directed a withering barrage of criticism against Higa's audit of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, with embattled director Ted Liu manning the gun turrets.

Back to the present: Even those clashes pale next to the governor's pre-emptive strike against Higa yesterday for her critical audit of the Department of Budget and Finance. Lingle called that draft report "shoddy," "unprofessional" and "politically motivated" and then demanded an investigation of the auditor.

Apparently the accountants of Accuity LLP are in on this shoddy, unprofessional and politically motivated deal since they were hired by Higa as outside experts to review the books.

So after seven years together, who is it who changed, Lingle or Higa?

To hear Lingle tell it, Higa, who has been in the job for 18 years, has transformed from a figure of nonpartisan virtue to a manipulative political hack.

We've been reading and writing about Higa's audits for years and we just don't buy it.

For all her earlier desire to tap the services of an independent auditor, the governor now seems determined to diminish Higa's office by dragging it through the mud. It seems like another effort by Lingle to change course to burnish her legacy as someone who "fought the system."

The bottom line: Either Linda Lingle or Marion Higa is lying. And we the taxpayers are stuck trying to figure out which it is.