Group Releases Concerns About WEDC

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The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group weighed in Wednesday on oversight problems at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The group released a report documenting a decline in public accountability for the agency’s loans and grants programs.

The WISPIRG report cites the groups numerous efforts to get a full accounting of the success or failure of the businesses that have received more than $400 million in grants, loans and tax credits in 2009 and 2010. WISPIRG director Bruce Speight says when his group asked for the accounting they were told it would cost too much staff time to provide it, “There’s been a lot of talk about increased transparency and accountability, there’s been very little action.”

WEDC has launched a new website designed to let tax payers track whether grant or loan recipients are fulfilling their contracts. But one of the authors of the WISPIG report, Alicia Burt says the site provides information about only two of the 251 completed projects, “In dollar terms the remaining 249 completed awards which did not provide any performance information online represent an awarded amount of $8,244,678, or roughly 99 percent of the total awarded amounts.”

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WISPIRG has proposed a set of recommendations to improve accountability including posting all progress reports fromgrant and loan recipients online and imposing stiff penalties for businesses that don’t meet reporting deadlines. It remains to be seen if bills now being drafted will include such provisions and whether the tighter rules will get the bipartisan support needed to pass the Senate and Assembly.

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