How Can Massachusetts Give Away Millions Without a Paper Trail?

Our next adventure in accountability and transparency in state government (see here and here for previous posts) starts with the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, helmed by Greg Bialecki.

That office (or at least one of its subunits) oversees the Capital Access Program. The intriguing thing about this program is that a single private entity, the Massachusetts Business Development Corporation (“MBDC”), is named in statute as the manager of the program (and recipient of funds). The state retains oversight through a contract that is renewed every two years and a statutorily-mandated “annual review and assessment of the performance of the MBDC.”

So, we were curious what the program was achieving with the millions it has received from the state over the years.

On January 20, 2011, we submitted a public record request for the annual review noted in the statute. What followed was sadly predictable: Economic Development ignored the request, then when we followed up, said it had not been received. That’s until we produced the fax receipt, and then they said they were working on it.

Finally, on December 22, 2011, more than 11 months after our first request, we got some documents. And those annual reviews we wanted? Well, “those reviews [of millions of dollars in state funds] have not resulted in written results.” (N.B. MBDC appears to have created its own ‘report’, but it’s unclear what period it covers — since 1953? — and specific activities for that year are not covered. And, of course, a vendor self-evaluation shouldn’t suffice as a review.)

So, Economic Development’s position is apparently that a review of a multi-million dollar loan program using state funds is done verbally. That seems impossible, but there it is, in black and white from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

And state officials wonder why we are skeptical about giving them more money?


Crossposted at Pioneer Institute’s blog.