Virginia’s leading economic development agency has been so badly mismanaged that it has been open to fraud for the past two decades, according to a what the Roanoke Times called a “damningreport by a watchdog agency for the General Assembly.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership approves grants without much oversight, doesn’t keep track of its employees and also doesn’t seek repayment from companies that received state money but failed to keep their promises.

The report was released Monday by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.

VEDP has awarded $384 million in various grants and incentive funds in the past decade. It has undergone a top-level shakeup recently and faces more scrutiny when the General Assembly convenes in January.

The JLARC report is a black eye for the administration of Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who, ironically, was on a trade mission to Japan when it was released. He was quoted as saying that a new chief executive officer at the partnership will help with reforms.

Yet many of the problems at VEDP go back to 1995 when it was formed and cover a number of gubernatorial administrations.

For years, VEDP was a cossetted group with a staff of about 111 who are paid more than the average state worker. JLARC claims that some of the employees don’t actually work eight hours a day. This suggests that they consider themselves as an elite.

Much of its corporate recruitment work has been done in secret that many simply accepted as the standard.

In fact, according to JLARC, the partnership handed out tens of millions in grants based on promises companies made but failed to monitor their actual performance.

A prime example is a Chinese firm known as Lindenburg Industries, which got $1.4 million to convert a factory in Appomattox County into a new business with hundreds of jobs. Nothing happened. The situation is said to be under investigation by the State Police.

This isn’t the first time Virginia has gotten into big trouble with its laissez-faire attitude about doling out public money to private industries.

In 1999, the state formed a special commission to hand out economic stimulus money to parts of the state in southern and southwestern areas hurt by the decline of tobacco growing. The funds came from a huge settlement 46 states, including Virginia, won from four major cigarette makers.

The tobacco commission ended up as a slush fund benefiting its politically appointed directors. Its chief executive ended up in prison for self-dealing, and the commission was given new leadership and a new name to try to spiff up its image.

Peter Galuszka is a regular contributor to All Opinions Are Local.