- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A new audit from New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is blasting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic development agency for failing to meet more than half of the reporting requirements for its highly touted tax credit and job creation programs.

The scathing report released Wednesday criticized Cuomo’s Empire State Development Corp. for sidestepping accountability and transparency.

Auditors found 27 of 57 outcome reports weren’t finished and 93 of 152 program reports were never completed. The 2015 annual report for START-UP NY, a program that creates tax-free zones around college campuses, airports and prisons, was issued 91 days late. Twelve programs totaling more than $500 million in state funds weren’t reported on at all.

In most cases, the agency didn’t explain why reports were missing, and auditors received limited feedback about the reporting processes, DiNapoli said.

Agency spokesman Jason Conwall disputed the findings, saying the audit “cherry-picks information” and “profoundly misrepresents our efforts.”

Empire State Development says it spent nearly $2 billion on economic development grants from 2012 to 2016 with the aim of spurring economic activity and stimulating job creation and business investment.

It also allocates hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, tax credits and other incentives.

Empire State Development holds itself to the highest standards and consistently adheres to robust standards of transparency and disclosure, while providing sound and timely information to the public,” Conwall said in a statement.

Conwall said some of the reports the comptroller said were missing fall under non-reporting categories because they are not directly managed or controlled by Empire State Development.

The state budget this year weakened some of the agency’s reporting requirements so companies no longer have to say how many jobs they created in order to stay in the program.

Conwall said the changes were intended to improve standards and the information will continue to be collected and published.

Cuomo’s economic programs already have been criticized by lawmakers and fiscal experts who say the results are lackluster and incentives need to be overhauled or eliminated.

The administration released a report on Start-UP NY last year that says the program only generated 408 jobs since its 2013 launch. A closer look at the database accompanying the report put the number at 395. Lawmakers said other discrepancies suggest dozens of jobs may have been double-counted.

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