A newly released state audit shows the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation continues to have problems tracking jobs created using the money it awards
The report from the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau found the troubled agency does not require grant and loan recipients to report enough details about any jobs created or kept here using money from the state. State Senator Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay), who co-chairs the Legislature’s audit committee, says that means lawmakers don’t know for sure whether those programs are working as intended.
“We create a program, we have to know if it works,” Cowles says. “If we can’t audit it, we won’t know if it works.”
The job creation agency has repeatedly been under fire since its creation several years ago, with reports showing the public/private agency failed to track loans and grants it issued to businesses. The agency has also faced criticism before for not providing enough information to track job creation.
The audit also found the agency continues to have millions of dollars in overdue loan repayments. Cowles finds that finding troubling, considering the Legislature’s budget committee voted earlier this month to reinstate the loan program. “I think everybody in the committee needs to read this section,” he says. “Do we really want to open this up again?”
Democrats on the budget committee called for the panel to reconsider the decision. “While we appreciate the progress made by WEDC in some areas, clearly more progress still needs to be made to ensure accountability for taxpayers. We should reexamine the recommendations from LAB in the context of the budget,” argued Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) in a written statement.
WEDC Secretary and CEO Mark Hogan responded to the report in a statement. “We welcome LAB’s recommendations and look forward to reviewing and implementing all of them, just as we have with the recommendations in LAB’s prior audits. The recommendations in this audit are part of that ongoing process and will play a key role in continuing to make WEDC a stronger organization.”