A group of experts in fighting government corruption will advise Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced on the use of federal funds allocated to the Puerto Rico Housing Department through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and the Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program.
Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced created the Advisory Council for the Management of Federal Programs through executive order (EO-2020-16) -which by press time had not been provided by La Fortaleza-. Former federal judge José Antonio Fusté; former U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez, and Nilsa Añeses Loperena, attorney and former assistant comptroller, will be part of that team as “external resource”.
"The purpose and mission of this council will be to ensure the proper management and sound administration of these funds, including strict control and compliance with federal processes and guidelines," the governor said in a press conference at La Fortaleza.
The governor added that the effective management of these funds “is extremely necessary and it is our priority, therefore it is essential “to create a comprehensive housing plan that satisfactorily coordinates all federal programs, including CDBG."
The governor's announcement joins the recent appointment of attorney Robert Couch as Federal Monitor for the nearly $20 billion in CDBG-DR program funds approved for Puerto Rico´s recovery. The federal government will also designate Rear Admiral Peter Brown as a "liaison" between the local and federal governments in the management of reconstruction funds allocated after Hurricane María, said Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González.
The governor assured the council was not a requirement by the federal government and that its members will not work in coordination with Couch or Brown.
"Admiral Brown and Couch are going to be in direct contact with the governor and with the Housing Secretary, explained Vázquez Garced and added that it's important for them to know that these experts “are advisers to the governor."
The government sends funds under the CDBG program, which are not intended for the island's reconstruction works, to municipalities with a population of 50,000 or less. These funds go to road paving projects, housing rehabilitation, housekeeping services, and direct assistance programs for citizens.
Meanwhile, CDBG-DR program funds approved for reconstruction works after Hurricane María and will be used throughout the island.
Both Rodríguez and Fusté stressed they will work to prevent the misuse of federal funds.
Rodríguez said that everybody knows there is cronyism in Puerto Rico. “We hope that our council can prevent countless cases of corruption and, even more, that it will speed up processes so that these funds can reach the people who need them. Our objective is to prevent," she concluded.