Circumstances surrounding the dismissal of Raúl Maldonado Gautier as secretary of the Treasury, chief financial officer of the government and head of the Office of Management and Budget, contribute to the perception of uncertainty and instability in government management in Puerto Rico, where several federal investigations on the use of public funds were already ongoing.
The climate of apprehension seems to intensify faced with the delicate standard of transparency that must rule every government entity. The three units mentioned above are particularly related to the island's fiscal and economic revitalization activities.
This crisis of governance comes at a time when Puerto Rico must focus on balancing its finances and restructuring its debt. They are vital in the efforts to get Puerto Ricans, the U.S. government and investors to trust our island. That trust is closely tied to job-creating investment.
Therefore, the government has to implement proper controls in the management of public funds to maximize operations and demonstrate institutional stability. That goal is part of important claims by the federal government, which, after Hurricane María, has supported the island with significant disaster relief allocations already granted and others to come.
Maldonado Gautier’s role included tax collection and processing, managing the government´s financial state, and public spending policy. This role became the base of confidence in the cabinet, as the official in charge of distributing budgetary items and straightening out public finances.
Meanwhile, Maldonado Gautier’s serious allegations of irregularities in the government structure must be thoroughly investigated. Maldonado denounced influences peddling, g document destruction and improper access to confidential information within the Department of the Treasury. These allegations are part of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The governor has also instructed the Puerto Rico Inspector General to investigate them.
Such activities should not have space in an agency with a mission as crucial as the Treasury, whose operation requires that taxpayers, local and federal government authorities, as well as potential investors, trust the system.
These allegations, that have not become formal accusations, are disturbing since they join claims of alleged irregularities in contracts and questionable practices in other agencies in the executive branch, as well as in the legislative branch. Allegations against the governor have joined the climate of instability.
It is important that authorities thoroughly and promptly investigate all these allegations. We call for the full cooperation of local officials in federal and state investigations, in which the presumption of innocence prevails. If corruption is proved, it is vital that no crime goes unpunished.
Even in these difficult times for Puerto Rico, our institutions need to be strengthened.
Puerto Rico has to establish, once and for all, transparent operations that guarantee the proper public funds management to provide operations and services that contribute to citizens´ welfare. This is the way to rebuild confidence in the governance of an island plunged into a crisis further aggravated by Hurricane María and bankruptcy.
This avalanche of allegations threatens the integrity and morals of the entire island. Therefore, the time has come to firmly take on a culture of sound public administration, backed by transparency and accountability for the wellbeing of all Puerto Ricans and their future generations.