Wisconsin economic development agency underperformed in last 3 fiscal years, audit finds

Wisconsin’s troubled financial improvement company’s efficiency has slipped during the last three fiscal years after exhibiting promising enchancment, in line with a assessment that the Legislature’s auditors launched Wednesday.

Republican lawmakers created the quasi-public Wisconsin Financial Improvement Company in 2011. The company fingers out tax credit, grants and loans to companies. State legislation requires the Legislative Audit Bureau to assessment the company’s operations each two years. The assessment launched Wednesday covers fiscal years 2020-21 via 2022-23.

Auditors discovered that the WEDC’s governing board didn’t submit minutes of board conferences in violation of its insurance policies. Company officers didn’t replace their insurance policies to mirror state legal guidelines that require the company to award tax credit to companies for wages paid solely in Wisconsin enterprise zones, that are geographic areas focused for financial improvement.


The WEDC awarded 5 grants totaling $50,000 to ineligible recipients. Two grants totaling $20,000 went to the College of Wisconsin System although the cash was speculated to go to small companies and WEDC insurance policies prohibited authorities entities from being awarded grants, auditors discovered.

The company did not require eight grant recipients to repay $64,300 in grants that went to cowl bills incurred after contractually specified time durations had ended or recipients didn’t confirm that they’d spent the cash in compliance with their contracts.

Auditors additionally found that the WEDC closed about 29,000 financial improvement awards totaling $992 million from fiscal 12 months 2011-12 via fiscal 12 months 2021-22, together with 338 tax credit score and mortgage awards that required recipients to create jobs. These recipients created just below 70% of the deliberate jobs and fewer than a 3rd of the recipients created two-thirds of the 17,485 jobs really created. Contracts referred to as for the creation of a complete of 26,124 jobs.

Wisconsin Fox News graphic

A legislative audit reported a three-year efficiency hunch by the Wisconsin Financial Improvement Company.

If the WEDC decided {that a} recipient did not create all of the promised jobs the company didn’t award that recipient all of the tax credit allotted, the audit stated.

The assessment additionally discovered that the WEDC’s on-line knowledge nonetheless accommodates inaccurate details about jobs created and retained.

State {dollars} have traditionally supported many of the WEDC’s packages, however auditors discovered that federal pandemic reduction funds accounted for greater than 60% of the WEDC’s $106.5 million complete income in fiscal 12 months 2021-22, the audit famous.


The WEDC’s secretary and CEO, Melissa Hughes, thanked the audit bureau for its work in a letter connected to the assessment. She famous that an unbiased audit of the WEDC’s fiscal 12 months 2022 monetary statements by Sikich LLP discovered no inner deficiencies in monetary reporting and the company obtained the Certificates of Achievement for Excellence in Monetary Reporting from the Authorities Finance Officers’ Affiliation of the USA and Canada for the tenth straight 12 months.

Hughes acknowledged, although, that the audit bureau’s assessment recognized 5 grants that “could have to be recaptured” and the company plans to make use of a 3rd get together to judge its enterprise tax credit score program.

She promised that details about board conferences will likely be printed in a well timed method. She stated WEDC officers will inform legislators by Dec. 6 about different efforts to comply with auditors’ suggestions.

The WEDC has struggled since its creation on a wide range of fronts and has develop into a political goal for Democrats. Gov. Tony Evers campaigned on a pledge to dissolve the company however backed off after he gained his first time period in 2018.


The audit bureau’s final assessment of the company in 2021 discovered efficiency had improved. That audit famous that the company had largely complied with state legislation when administering its awards and the quantity of past-due loans had decreased from $7.6 million to $6.6 million in 2019 and 2020.

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