Report: Hawaii tax officials altered monitoring reports

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii tax officials instructed a consulting group on what to include and change in its monitoring reports on a state Department of Taxation modernization project before the reports were made public, the group says.

The state hired consultant AdvanTech LLC last year to independently oversee the $60 million project to upgrade the department’s computer systems and provide reports to lawmakers and the public.

The group was hired to help ensure the Tax System Modernization project would progress as planned and function as promised.

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AdvanTech’s previous six reports offered generally positive assessments of the project, but that changed in the October report. The latest AdvanTech report warned that the project was not operating as it should, saying there were several issues and risks that could hinder the project’s ability to function properly if not addressed.

The report also raised questions on the project’s management, alleging personality conflicts were undermining its direction.

Rep. Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Committee on Finance, said the report shows the department officials’ manipulation. That, she said, brings into question the findings of the group’s past reports.

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“It completely undermines the credibility of the report and what they have said in the past,” Luke said. “And I’m not sure how the consultant can allow this to happen, and I don’t know how the Department of (Taxation) personnel can ethically insert themselves to maneuver and manipulate the information in these reports.”

Director of Taxation Maria Zielinski said in a statement that her office could not comment on the contents of the report because it had only recently received it. She said the department is committed to making sure the project is successful.

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