dinapoliFrom the Morning Memo:

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said during a CapTon interview last night that his office “may look” at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature upstate economic development project, the Buffalo Billion, which is currently the subject of an investigation by US Attorney Preet Bharara.

“We may look at parts of that; obviously, it’s been very much in the news,” DiNapoli said. “And, you know, that may be a piece of what we look at. But when it’s an audit, we have our own time, and our own resources and our own schedules.”

DiNapoli noted that his office has been stepping up its oversight of economic development spending by the Cuomo administration, writ large, having already conducted an audit on the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to advertise another Cuomo initiative, START-UP NY, that found the money had produced “no tangible results.”

The comptroller’s office also has an audit underway of the Excelsior Jobs program, which replaced the Empire Zone program in 2010.

“I’ve said for a period of time, we were in a tough spot after the recession kicked in, a lot of money came in for economic development programs,” DiNapoli explained. “Now that things are a little better, it’s time to take a deep breath and look at what is the return that we’re getting for these initiatives.”

The comptroller was quick to point out that his office’s pre-auditing powers were curtailed back in 2011, which considerably reduced his oversight at the front end of projects like the Buffalo Billion – especially since much of the money is funneled through a nonprofit, Fort Schulyer Management Corp., which handles development on behalf of SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

“The landscape has changed in terms of what we’re allowed to do ahead of time,” DiNapoli said. “But after the money is spent, we’ll certainly be doing more audits in this area, generally.”