Audit: Measurement Standards Branch plagued with vacant positions

Reduced staff limits branch's function to promote fair business practices

Published  10:26 AM HST Mar 28, 2013
HONOLULU -

A state audit has found that six of the 11 positions for the Department of Agriculture's Measurement Standards Branch remains vacant.

The report also says the branch's two remaining inspectors can only perform eight of the branch's 15 key regulatory functions.

Click here to read the entire audit.

The workers for the state's Measurement Standards Branch work behind the scenes to protect consumers, businesses and manufacturers from unfair practices.

To keep the marketplace in balance, inspectors look at weighing and measuring equipment and packages at warehouses, shipping companies, and even gasoline stations.

Regulations for weights and measures cover the following six key areas:

  1. Petroleum accounting and inspections
  2. Investigating odometer tampering
  3. Maintaining and assuring the state measurement standards
  4. Assuring uniform packaging and labeling of consumer commodities
  5. Voluntary registration of service persons and agencies to test measurement standards and measuring devices
  6. Licensing public measuremasters engaged in weighing, assuring, or counting vehicles, property, produce, commodities, or articles other than those that the weigher or the weigher's employer, is buying or selling

The state audit has found from fiscal year 2010 to 2012, the Measurement Standards Branch inspected an average of only 2.6 percent of the small scales, less than 1 percent of the medium scales, and 6.7 percent of the gas pumps registered in the state.

During that time, enforcement functions on the neighbor islands and packaging and labeling inspections throughout the state have ceased as of 2009.

The 2012 Legislature appropriated $420,000 to restore a program manager and three new inspector positions.  But, since the beginning of fiscal year 2013, the branch has been unable to fill these positions because the acting administrator has not addressed questions raised by the department's personnel office regarding the program manager position, according to the audit.

The acting administrator says the inspector positions cannot be filled until a program manager is hired to develop a training program.

The audit also found the branch has no plans, policies, or procedures for oversight of private service agencies.

The chairperson of the Board of Agriculture has already appointed a permanent Quality Assurance Division administrator who is in the process of hiring a program manager and two inspectors.  The agriculture chair will also work with the administrator to develop a strategic plan to execute the audit's recommendations.

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