A report released Thursday by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said Empire State Development Corporation, the state's chief economic development agency, needs to increase its accountability and transparency in order to determine the effectiveness of its programs.
The profile of Empire State Development found the agency has limited financial information available for the nearly 170 subsidiaries under its umbrella. And while ESD reported helping create 2,424 jobs in the 2013 fiscal year, DiNapoli said there has been minimal reporting on the performance of various economic development initiatives supported by the agency.
"New York state spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to spur economic development and job creation through ESDC programs," DiNapoli said in a statement. "New Yorkers deserve more thorough accounting about whether these programs are achieving desired results."
DiNapoli's report also examined ESD's finances. The agency had outstanding debt of more than $10.7 billion at the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year, up 20 percent from the 2012-13 fiscal year.
A major source of the debt, according to DiNapoli, is the result of so-called "backdoor borrowing" — a practice that involves the agency issuing debt to help fund a myriad of projects and to refund debt of other public authorities.
ESD had $1.3 billion in expenditures in 2014, with $468 million of that total consisting of interest and other expenses.
The agency has 290 full-time and part-time employees. Based on figures from the 2014 fiscal year, more than half — about 57 percent — of ESD's staff were classified as managers.
Nearly one-quarter of the agency's staff — 23 percent — were paid at least $100,000 in 2014, according to DiNapoli's findings.
ESD has 13 offices, including three main offices in Albany, Buffalo and New York City. There are 10 regional offices throughout the state, including one in Syracuse.
The state's economic development arm also reported having offices overseas. In 2014, ESD said they had offices in Israel, South Africa and the United Kingdom. As of January, the agency reported having offices in Canada, China and Mexico.
With ESD's reach, the complexities of the state's economy and initiatives to encourage growth, DiNapoli's report said a "high standard of public accountability" is needed to "ensure that the state's investments in economic development pay off."
"Further efforts by ESDC to thoroughly assess the costs and benefits of the state’s economic development initiatives could help promote confidence that its investment of public resources maximizes job creation and other beneficial results for all New Yorkers," the report said.