Governance and public management must always be guided by transparency and decency. Omitting these pillars undermines institutional structures, exposing them at the very least to inefficiency or, worse, corruption.

That warning comes from the indictment containing the federal accusations against former officials and contractors of the government of Puerto Rico. The federal indictment that reveals an alleged embezzlement scheme that cost the island $15.5 million, confirms an inappropriate internal communication pattern shaped in the highest levels of government.

From personal e-mail accounts to encrypted messaging applications that leave no trace of exchanges, these communication networks clash with government records and could even facilitate inappropriate actions.

It is therefore important that the government imposes clear instructions, guidelines -and sanctions- to use official channels in communications between officials on public issues. It is an urgent measure to prevent the lack of transparency and the evils associated with it.

It is precisely mechanisms that ensure transparency one of the conditions the federal government demands to release federal funds allocated to the physical, economic and social recovery of the island. Despite internal controls adopted to comply with those requirements, the practice attempts against such efforts, in light of the facts described in the federal charges announced this week.

It emerged that, even in very high places in the government, unofficial communication channels are usual. Additionally, under the alleged privacy of these platforms, these messages include a pattern of insults and immaturity that damages the image of those who text. An elected official must always keep up with the position entrusted by citizens, showing respect to everyone. These regrettable expressions are far from the climate of seriousness and commitment that the island requires from its leaders.

The moment calls for close collaboration with the Oversight Board, within the framework of respect, to implement urgent fiscal measures. Every person, public or private, without distinction of gender or opinion, deserves equal respect so that our society may achieve peace with justice and equity.

Recent events, which in part arise from a lack of scruples and strict controls, deepen the crisis of governance in an already battered island. Puerto Rico face monumental challenges that demand high ethical values at the highest level of the government.

After the ravages of a prolonged fiscal and economic crisis, aggravated by the hurricanes, the island’s future depends on efforts to restructure the debt and the government, regain credibility for the release of federal funds for recovery and to attract investment. These and other pressing economic and social developmentprojects must take every minute of the leadership agenda. These challenges require closing the door to corruption once and for all.

As a first step against corruption in public management, the government should ban – and refrain from – using any form of internal communication other than the official, established to maintain a clear and transparent record of government affairs. Leaders set the example.

Recent events should also serve to make the leadership reflect on the privileged mission that falls on their shoulders. It is also up to citizens to demand transparency from those invested with the duty to serve. Their reason for being public servants is to protect and advance the common good, so that each person, without distinction, enjoys the same opportunities to reach full development. The lack of such understanding opens the doors to corruption.

Puerto Rico needs its leaders to internalize and assume the moral stature required to serve it with determination, decency, and transparency.

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