MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin's top economic development agency has lost track of more than $8 million dollars in loans it gave to state businesses.
On Wednesday, outgoing Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary and CEO Paul Jadin told members of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee that they should know more about what his agency is up to.
But, he apparently had no intention of publicly telling them anything about this most recent problem.
In more than 30 minutes of testimony, Jadin didn't mention anything about how the WEDC failed, for more than a year, to keep track of $8.2 million dollars in loans it paid out to 99 Wisconsin businesses.
"This hearing went on late into the night, and so he didn't decide to mention that until we were all gone. It doesn't smell right," said Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), who sits on the JLAC.
Tom Thieding, a spokesperson for the WEDC, confirms that all of the loans are at least 30 days past due, and the agency has no idea just how money much is owed to state taxpayers at this point.
Democrats, who called for more transparency when the legislature created the WEDC to replace the Department of Commerce in 2011, are crying foul.
"We're seeing money disappearing, we're seeing a lack of accountability, a lack of transparency and on top of that you have this laissez-faire attitude that's kind of like, 'oh well, we'll figure it out, we hope they're creating jobs but we actually don't know,'" said Sen. Larson.
This is the third financial problem at the WEDC in the last four months.
In June, officials admitted to offering tax incentives to Stevens Point-based Skyward, Inc., on the condition that it won a $15 million contract to provide software services for Wisconsin school districts.
But, because a Minnesota-based company which also bid on the project got no similar offer of incentives, the entire process had to be suspended and re-started.
Then, in August, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials called out the agency for its mishandling of millions of dollars in grant money.
"Now its a chance to go back and say, OK, we have these problems, what can we do to fix them? What can we do to prevent them next time?," said Sen. Larson.
Governor Scott Walker, who is the Chair of the WEDC Board of Directors and asked for the creation of the agency, released this statement about the issue late this afternoon:
"Being a good steward of taxpayers' money while helping people create jobs is my top priority. With that in mind, I will be discussing a series of dramatic moves with the Board of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation at our meeting on Friday."
27 News will be at the public meeting and will have full reports on it Friday at 5 and 6.
MADISON (WKOW) -- On the same day the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation's outgoing Secretary and CEO told legislators they should have more oversight of the agency's finances, another top WEDC official told a Milwaukee newspaper of another blunder.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that WEDC Chief Operating Officer Ryan Murray told them that for more than a year, the agency has failed to keep track of whether businesses are repaying loans from state taxpayers.
The Journal-Sentinel reports those past-due loans total more than $8 million and were given out by the WEDC to 99 Wisconsin businesses.
WEDC Spokesperson Tom Thieding confirmed the facts of the story to 27 News Thursday morning.
The loans that are past due by at least 30 days amount to 16 percent of the state agency's total loan portfolio of $51 million in loans.
On Wednesday, WEDC Secretary Paul Jadin told the Joint Legislative Audit Committee that he supported a recommendation by the Legislative Audit Bureau that the agency be subject to more stringent reporting standards.
But Jadin made no mention of the loan issue.
Jadin is leaving the WEDC on Friday to take the top job at Thrive, a Madison-based regional economic development agency.
This is the just the latest in a series of missteps at the WEDC this year.
In June, it was revealed the agency had offered tax incentives to Skyward Inc., a Stevens Point company, if it won a bid to provide software for 200 Wisconsin school districts.
A Minnesota-based company that was also bidding for the contract claimed those offers of tax incentives were an unfair advantage for Skyward.
The bid process was suspended as a result and has since been restarted.
Then in September, a letter from federal officials to the WEDC raised questions about the way the agency was handling its finances.
The letter outlined several concerns, including the WEDC's failure to check the financial soundness of two Wisconsin companies the agency had awarded $1.4 million dollars worth of federal grants to last year.
Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann is following up on this story and will have more on 27 News at 5 and 6.
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