Did you see this editorial?

May 1, 2018

(Please read and share the attached Waterbury Republican-American Editorial and send me your comments at [email protected] – thank you!)

DECD audit: Agency’s flaws finally exposed

Last year, the Connecticut legislature passed, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed, legislation to change the way state government evaluates taxpayer-funded economic-development programs.

Among other things, the legislature’s Auditors of Public Accounts were tasked with checking the accuracy of reports to the legislature from the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), which administers these programs.

The legislation was proposed by state Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo, who has been something of an open-government crusader since he took office in 2011.

The auditors have released their first report in accordance with the 2017 law.

It revealed DECD, an executive-branch agency, has serious problems.

Such a brutally honest evaluation likely wouldn’t have been possible without the new law.

Connecticut residents and business people owe Mr. Lembo a debt of gratitude.

Chief auditors Robert J. Kane and John C. Geragosian, both former legislators, issued their report April 24.

They depicted DECD as an agency in utter disarray.

Messrs. Kane and Geragosian “found inaccurate jobs numbers, missing information and tens of millions of dollars in accounting errors in a groundbreaking audit of financial assistance and tax incentive programs for business,” the Republican-American reported April 25.

Calendar year 2017 was the focus of the auditors’ report. Special attention was paid to programs under the Manufacturing Assistance Act and the Small Business Express initiative. All told, the programs provided $198 million in economic assistance in 2017, according to the Republican-American.

These findings should concern all Connecticut stakeholders.

The state is in grips of financial and economic crises, yet DECD can’t get out of its own way.

Such ineptitude stands to hurt the financial well-being of all Connecticut taxpayers and make the state less attractive as a place to set up shop.

Why should business people trust state government when its economic-development agency is such a mess?

Indeed, as the Republican-American reported April 29, the report “call(s) into question the reliability of the DECD’s assessments and measurements of its influence and impact.”

The incompetence and lack of accountability are especially appalling when one considers the aforementioned programs have been so key to Gov. Malloy’s economic strategy.

Connecticut taxpayers were entitled to know the story of DECD’s problems.

It is questionable whether they would have received such a blunt assessment pre-2017. Mr. Lembo deserves great credit for pushing so hard for the 2017 law, especially since Gov. Malloy vetoed similar legislation in 2016, on the ridiculous grounds that it was “unnecessary and unwarranted.”

Mr. Lembo’s perseverance resulted in Connecticut residents receiving vital information.

Hopefully, that will lead the people to demand better from DECD.