Barca, Lassa Want WEDC to Move on Audit
Report shows agencies failed to report required data on jobs programs
Madison — Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) want the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to take action on an audit of state economic development programs that found that state agencies failed to track or publicly report complete information about the results of taxpayer-funded jobs programs.
The lawmakers noted that in a time when Wisconsin is losing jobs and lagging behind the rest of the nation in job creation, accountability and monitoring is even more important. Barca and Lassa, who are members of the WEDC Board of Directors, sent a letter to WEDC Secretary and CEO Paul Jadin requesting that the audit be discussed at the next board meeting on June 28.
Among the findings of the Legislative Audit Bureau report was that barely 17 percent of state economic development programs had reported both expected and actual outcomes, as required by state law. Further, the administration’s required annual report of economic development programs covered only 68 percent of the required programs. The agency charged with job creation – the Department of Commerce – took two and a half years after the law was passed to verify job creators and then looked at only ten companies out of more than 500 companies given awards.
“The purpose of 2007 Act 125 is clear and straightforward: state agencies must collect information on the results of job creation programs,” said Lassa, who is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Economic Development and member of the Joint Audit Committee. “Unless state government has reliable data about the jobs these programs create, we can’t tell which are good investments and which are wastes of taxpayer dollars. If we’re ever going to meet our obligation to taxpayers, state agencies have to take their responsibilities under the law seriously.”
“Tracking outcomes from current economic development programs is the only way to determine their effectiveness,” said Barca. “Unfortunately, WEDC was created with less stringent performance reporting requirements than the Department of Commerce had, despite Democratic efforts to push for parallel requirements. This report highlights the shortcomings in the reporting processes at the old Commerce Department, but we need to ensure WEDC must both hit the same levels of reporting and completely carry out the requirements.”
Although the Legislative Audit Bureau report, which was issued last week, only covers the years prior to the abolishment of the Department of Commerce and the establishment of WEDC in 2011, the bureau recommends that WEDC take the lead in helping state agencies do a better job of reporting on results. In their letter, Barca and Lassa call for quick action to prepare for the 2012 report on economic development activities due out in October.
“Because of the timeliness of the report and the urgency of implementing these recommendations prior to October, we believe the audit and its recommendations should be discussed at the June 28 meeting of the WEDC board of directors,” they wrote.