WAUKESHA, WI (WSAU) - An emergency meeting of the board for Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation was held in Waukesha Wednesday to discuss it’s recent unsatisfactory audit findings. The agency, which replaced the Department of Commerce, has been accused of inconsistent policies for lending and poor follow-up on taxpayer investments. Governor Scott Walker participated in the meeting.
Walker says the audit review involved examiners going over the books with the WEDC staff out of the room. “Much as we did with other auditors in the past, we not only had a public review with staff in the room, but in Wausau, we also had the room cleared of staff and talked specifically to the auditors there earlier this year. That’s something that is commonplace with nonprofits and for profit organizations alike.”
Walker says WEDC has successes and failures, and he wants to see the agency’s issues resolved. “They like the front line work that the front line staff at the WEDC is doing. They think it’s been effective. They can in many ways measure (how) much more responsive (WEDC is) than they got from the Department of Commerce in the past, so there’s some real strengths there. By the same token, this organization still continues to be weighed down by some of the administrative problems from the past leadership.”
Walker confirms what Board Member and State Senator Julie Lassa said Tuesday, that board members want more involvement in the operation of WEDC. “This board is going to play a much more active role. It’s something I’ve been interested in, and talking in the last week or so, certainly the members of this board, both private sector members as well as elected officials I think are interested in playing a much more active role going forward.”
After three hours, the board decided to form three committees that will oversee policies, contracts, and credit decisions. The Governor also instructed Chairman Reed Hall to ask the Legislative Audit Bureau to meet with them and provide some guidance to the board.
Lassa says there are several bills circulating at the Legislature that are seeking an audit every year WEDC, to make sure they are not wasting tax dollars and not breaking any laws.
Walker says many of the problems have already been resolved by replacing prior staff members and putting Reid Hall in charge, but there’s still work to do. The Governor expects these changes to lead to an agency with, “clear expectations, clear policies and clear follow-up.”