DiNapoli audit criticizes Empire State Development for poor oversight of programs

Kevin Tampone

Post Standard

Oct 18, 2021

A new audit from state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found Empire State Development fails to evaluate most of its programs for effectiveness.

ESD, New York’s lead economic development agency, does not review whether most of its program are actually boosting the state’s economy and delivering promised job and business growth, according to the audit. The agency spends about $1.8 billion a year on loans, grants, tax credits and other assistance for companies and projects.

Auditors found that ESD, with few exceptions, does not monitor whether its programs are meeting their goals. It also doesn’t work to identify successes or failures or apply successful strategies to other 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,” DiNapoli said in a press release. “The agency must do a better job of analyzing whether these programs are achieving their goals and share this information with the public.”

For example, ESD officials said they reviewed data for two separate business programs that showed positive results and led to some changes. But they couldn’t provide any supporting documents showing how the data was analyzed, according to DiNapoli’s office.

DiNapoli recommended the agency conduct and document evaluations of all its assistance programs to assess performance. He also said they agency should track more programs using a centralized database.

In a response to the audit, ESD said DiNapoli’s assertion that it does not evaluate its programs’ effectiveness is not correct. The agency said it publishes dozens of quarterly and annual reports that provide a broad view of its efforts.