Walker: Accountability, stability at WEDC a priority
Job-creation agency leaders have admitted 'missteps'
WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker said the job-creation agency he pushed to create will be more accountable after a series of problems and organizational shakeups.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. didn’t assign staff members to track about $69 million in state loans, agency leaders have said, calling it a “misstep.” More than $12 million of those loans are now at risk because companies are behind on their repayments, news reports have indicated.
WEDC’s new leaders — handpicked by Walker after previous managers resigned in recent months — said they were hiring an outside financial institution and accounting firm to provide oversight of the loan programs and financial records.
“We want to be accountable (to) the taxpayers, but we also want to be accountable for the board of directors,” Walker said. “What sorts of decisions are to be made for the future — which (loan programs) are truly effective in creating new jobs and which ones are not.”
Walker’s comments came as he toured show exhibits at a hunting trade show in the Wisconsin Dells.
The WEDC, created in 2011, replaced the former Wisconsin Department of Commerce, which Walker administration officials have said was inefficient and ineffective at job creation.
But problems have plagued the WEDC in recent months.
The agency received criticism for using $10 million in U.S. Housing and Urban Development money without federal authority to do so, and offering state tax credits to a company that was competitively bidding for a state contract, WISC-TV reported previously.
Paul Jadin, the former WEDC chief executive, resigned Nov. 1 to take a job at Thrive, the economic development group in south-central Wisconsin.
“We’ve come in and we’ve had stability at the top — much longer than they had (at the former Commerce Department),” Walker said. “But, with a new agency, there are some issues to be dealt with, and this is one of those.”