This past spring, I attended separate listening sessions held by Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) and Rep. Ken Skowronski (R-Franklin). Both were asked if they intended to investigate the flagrant waste of taxpayers' money by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
They expressed concern and promised to pursue WEDC's problems. Talk is cheap. This agency, created by Gov. Scott Walker in 2012, has been under fire for failing to follow state or federal laws and its own policies in the handling of loans to businesses promising to generate jobs. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's investigative reporting has and continues to inform its readers of WEDC's giving unvetted, unreviewed and uncollectable loans of $8.6 million as of July 23 ("Another WEDC loan goes sour").
No wonder Rep. David Craig (R-Big Bend) and Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) want to do away with the 50-year old Legislative Audit Bureau (the nonpartisan watchdog that audits state agency books). Craig and Jarchow want to disband the Joint Audit Committee and give the auditing powers to committee chairs in the state Assembly and state Senate who may or may not choose to investigate fiscal wrongdoing.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Lazich could then appoint an inspector general in each large state agency for a six-year term. What is to prevent partisan appointees from overlooking further unvetted loans?
Currently WEDC's questionable lending practices can't be pursued by Wisconsin Department of Justice attorneys, so taxpayers are on the hook for the bad loans and private attorneys' fees to seek repayment from businessmen and their companies that lacked the ability to pay back loans received.
What to do? Hold Walker accountable — the facts should require him to give taxpayers honest answers. Also, it is time the U.S. Department of Justice assign forensic accountants to investigate WEDC and all who have participated in this debacle.