Audit finds state economic agency must tune up oversight of job growth efforts

ALBANY — New York’s economic development agency has been lax in determining whether its efforts are accomplishing the agency’s goals, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in an audit released Monday.

DiNapoli called on Empire State Development, a public authority controlled by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration, to do a better job in ascertaining whether objectives are being met through its various programs.

“ESD does not use the data it collects to assess the effectiveness of its programs and see if the billions of dollars spent are creating opportunities across the state,” the comptroller said in releasing a report completed by his team of auditors.

The report notes the authority spends about $1.8 billion each year on grants, loans, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance to stimulate economic growth.

But documentation from Empire State Development was lacking when auditors pressed the agency to back up claims that its Excelsior Jobs Program and Start-Up New York program have been yielding positive results, DiNapoli said.

In responding to the criticisms, the authority said it furnishes 50 quarterly and annual reports on the programs it oversees and provides the Legislature, the governor’s office and the public with regular updates on the performance of its initiatives.

Empire State Development agreed with a DiNapoli recommendation that it use an information technology system, Microsoft Dynamics, to track the performance of economic development programs, noting that effort began before the audit took place.

DiNapoli said the agency has done a better job in evaluating the effectiveness of its film tax credit program, which provides incentives to television and movie companies working in the state.

The audit noted the authority had determined the film program has sparked “significant spending” by the production companies, generating “upward of $1 billion in tax collections.”

As a result, the report noted, ESD has recommended to lawmakers that they shave the film tax credit from 30% to 25% of expenses to buttress the program’s long-term viability.


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