Doug Hoffer: The Auditor's Challenge In Measuring Economic Development Programs
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The unfortunate situation with the EB-5 program presents an opportunity to reflect on the state’s approach to economic development. Among other responsibilities, the state auditor’s office examines various programs to determine whether they achieve the goals established by the Legislature. That is, are we getting our money’s worth?
To answer the question, we conduct performance audits according to generally accepted government auditing standards. To do this, we need evidence that is sufficient and appropriate (i.e., quantity and quality). In the absence of such evidence, we cannot reach meaningful conclusions or make recommendations.
Unfortunately, some economic development programs present serious challenges. Here are some examples.
By statute, the Vermont Training Program may only award grants for training that is supplemental rather than replacement. That is, taxpayers should not pay for training that would have occurred anyway. For example, if a company routinely trains new hires, it would be difficult to justify a training grant intended for new employees. Although applicants are asked about the nature of the proposed training, their statements are not validated. Therefore, we cannot determine the program’s effectiveness because there is no evidence that the grants are only for supplemental training.