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Interim WEDC leader says changes being made to agency

MADISON - The interim head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation told state lawmakers that his agency is making widespread changes, after an audit showed that it lacked basic checks-and-balances.

Reed Hall told a state Senate committee yesterday that numerous lapses rested with the agency's staff. And it's using the audit it commissioned from Schenck S.C. as a "road map" to get better. The audit said the public-private job creation agency did not collect paybacks on business loans, mis-stated financial deals, and never had a supervisor approve up to a quarter of its credit card transactions - thus opening the door to possible embezzlement. Chief Operating Officer Ryan Murray said no inappropriate charges have been found so far. Also, the audit showed a lack of proper internal accounting controls. It said the corporation's board never received monthly balance sheets and income statements - but it will now.

Many of the problems were blamed on a high staff turnover. Up to half the employees left when the former state Commerce Department disbanded in mid-2011, as the Economic Development Corporation was formed. Governor Scott Walker pushed for the change, to help keep his 2010 campaign promise to create a quarter-million new private sector jobs in Wisconsin by 2015. Walker chairs the agency's board, which will further discuss the situation today. Also today, Hall said the department would get more suggestions for improvements from the Wisconsin Banker