Edwin S.W. Young

By Catterall, Lee | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, March 22, 2013 | Go to article overview

Edwin S.W. Young


Catterall, Lee, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


Upon his graduation from the University of Hawaii, Edwin S.W. Young entered the auditing profession through the arm of Congress that investigates the performance of the federal government. Many years later, he has returned to Honolulu as the city auditor.

After working at the General Accounting Office, since renamed the Government Accountability Office, Young served as auditor at the Small Business Administration's office in Los Angeles, director at the U.S. Naval Audit Service, foreign service officer at the State Department's inspector general office and manager for the Air Force Audit Agency.

In those three decades, Young said, "we were breaking new ground as to what auditing is all about and what auditing should produce as value-added results for the federal government."

"After I retired from the federal government," Young laughed, "my wife said, 'You're not going to be a Velcro husband. You're not going to be around every time I turn around.'"

So much for stay-at-home retirement.

It happened that California State University at Fullerton was looking for an auditor, so Young took the job, then moved to a position as an auditor for the city of Palo Alto, Calif., where he won the 2010 Association of Local Government Auditors Knighton Gold Award.

Now 69, Young returned to his birth home that year as Honolulu city auditor at an office in Kapolei, overseeing a staff of eight, which includes himself and five other auditors.

QUESTION: Why has there been more attention paid to the state auditor?

ANSWER: Partly because the city auditor has been relatively new compared to Marion Higa and the state auditor, and her reports have been of a higher profile, whereas I'm relatively new -- I've been here only since May 2010 -- and our reports have been not of a very high profile and not very readable. So since I have come on board, I've tried to make our reports more visible through the website and also of more value-added for the City Council, because we report directly to the City Council. So since I've come on board, I believe our visibility is increasing and the City Council is paying more attention to our office than in the past.

Q: What was being an auditor for the federal government like?

A: It's a good training ground for local government. I was originally born and raised here in Hawaii, the first graduating class of Kalani (High); it seems like eons ago. But it's amazing when you graduate from public school, that many of us were saying, OK, we need a job. Through the course of completing my education at the University of Hawaii, an opportunity arose to join the General Accountability Office, and GAO was a good training program because it teaches the fundamentals of auditing, and at that time no one had ever heard of performance auditing at all, so it was a relatively new arena for someone like myself.

Q: What is performance auditing?

A: There are three basic types of auditing that most auditors do. One is what most people are familiar with, which is compliance auditing: Are you complying with the laws and regulations of the federal government, state government or the local government?

Financial auditing is the second type, where you are verifying the information of financial statements, saying you probably complied with the accounting rules and regulations, and the information you're reporting is valid.

The third type is performance auditing, where you're looking at programs that may have been passed by the state, federal or local government, with specific objectives and anticipated results, and then you're looking at the program to see if it's achieved its objectives and how well it's achieving those objectives.

The Leeward Coast Community College audit that we performed (in 2010) basically would be typical of the type of performance audits that we do. Basically, the City Council gave the Leeward Coast a million dollars a year as an offset for compensation for having the landfill here, and so the $1 million given in grants to nonprofit organizations was supposed to benefit the Leeward Coast. …

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