W.Va. agriculture loans story overshadowed

A column by Phil Kabler of the Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Between contaminated water and the ongoing legislative session, the legislative audit revealing financial mismanagement and probable fraudulent activity in the Department of Agriculture under former commissioner Gus Douglass probably didn’t get the sort of media coverage it warranted.

Among the issues raised was mismanagement of the Rural Rehabilitation Loan Program, a federally funded revolving loan program, with numerous loans being delinquent or written off, other loans lacking sufficient collateral, and with at least four loan recipients having potential conflicts of interest with the WVDA loan committee and the commissioner.

The audit did not identify recipients by name, so I requested that Agriculture provide a list of all Rural Rehabilitation loans corresponding with the time period of the audit, July 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2012.

According to the department disclosure, there are 40 active Rural Rehabilitation loans administered by the WVDA, along with seven additional loans that have been written off as uncollectable, and six loans that were paid off during the time period.

Of the 40 loans, 25 are listed as delinquent…

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