The troubled Wisconsin Economic Develop Corporation is still having problems complying with a number of state laws and regulations, according to the findings of a report released Friday morning by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau.
The audit is based on a review of more than 100 awards made by WEDC during the 2013-14 fiscal year. It found the public-private agency failed to include provisions in grants and loans that contractually require recipients to submit information proving they created and retained jobs. The LAB also discovered that “WEDC did not establish all statutorily required policies for its tax credit programs, did not consistently evaluate whether businesses met all eligibility requirements in its tax credit policies, and allocated tax credits in ways that did not consistently comply with statutes and its policies.”
State Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay), who co-chairs the legislature’s Audit Committee, said in a statement that “It is unacceptable that certain issues raised in the previous audit report have not been addressed. Maintaining administrative oversight and verifying of our job creation efforts should be a vital aspect to assuring WEDC’s grant, loan and tax credit programs are fruitful and are creating jobs.”
WEDC Secretary and CEO Reed Hall said in a statement that “Today’s audit acknowledges many areas in which WEDC has made improvements to our procedures, and the positive results of those changes, including a significant decline in loan delinquency rates and uncollectable loans, and providing a high level of customer service to businesses and other stakeholders. However, we strongly disagree with findings in that audit that WEDC is not verifying job creation or following state statutes and policies. We will review the audit’s recommendations, but it is imperative that WEDC continue to have the flexibility needed to respond quickly to the needs of Wisconsin’s business community.”
The audit is just the latest in a long line of reports that have shown continued problems with operations at WEDC, which was created early on in Governor Scott Walker’s first term as a replacement for the state Department of Commerce.