Rosselló imposes more controls on public spending (horizontal-x3)
“Every agency head must provide the utmost cooperation to this effort,” the new regulation stresses. (Teresa Canino)

From now on, any office in public agencies handling matters that affect government funds will fall under the direct supervision of the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (FAFAA), the Department of the Treasury (DH), and the Office of Management and Budget (OGP). 

The order was given yesterday by governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares through an executive order, that intends to establish fiscal controls and additional savings measures to comply with the metrics in the Puerto Rico Fiscal Plan endorsed by the Oversight Board (OB).

This way, the FAFAA, the DH, and the OGP will supervise from up close the management of public funds in areas such as human resources, payroll, finance, accounts payable, federal funds, and accounting in all the agencies of the Executive.

“The Island’s current situation requires prompt intervention by the FAFAA, the DH, and the OGP, pursuant to their respective legal powers,” states the executive order (OE-2017-033), signed by the governor yesterday.

“All personnel assigned may, including but not limited to, review invoices, reconcile debts, and recommend reductions in contract spending, in such a way as to achieve the reductions in contracting and to generate savings in addition to those projected by the government. Non-essential contracting will not be allowed,” it adds.

The document specifies the term “agency” as referring to any instrumentality, office, or dependency of the Executive Branch, “regardless of its name.”

Likewise, it establishes that DH secretary, Raúl Maldonado Gautier, will use his duties as the government’s chief financial officer (CFO), to ensure that the financial statements corresponding to fiscals 2015, 2016, and 2017 are produced quickly.

As part of the duties described in the order, the FAFAA, the DH, and the OGP may deploy personnel in the finance offices of central government agencies in order to evaluate their operations from up close, and identify and implement additional savings and spending reduction measures. 

“Every agency head must provide the utmost cooperation to this effort,” the new regulation stresses.

The agency trio, which also makes up the committee with the power to increase and adjust the rates of public corporations, will also have to make sure that any disbursements to public entities are made according to the guidelines established in the fiscal plan. 

The executive order will remain in effect indefinitely, until it is repealed by a new order or subsequent law.

According to the requirements in the Fiscal Plan approved in March, the government will have to generate this year a cash reserve of $200 million, separate from the General Fund, and seek savings of close to $291 million.

Bill rejected

On other matters, early yesterday, Rosselló Nevares commented on a Bill of Law that’s been submitted to the House of Representatives to create the “Law on the Restoration of Religious Freedom,” and immediately after, closed the door on it.

“Our administration has said clearly that it will not restrict rights granted to different sectors in our society, both legally or legislatively,” the governor said in a written statement.

“We reject any legislation, such as House Bill 1018, that implies that a citizen receives government services (based on) his/her religion or sexual orientation. This type of measure has no room in this administration,” the governor added. 

The measure, authored by New Progressive (Party) House members Guillermo Miranda, Carlos “Johnny” Méndez, and María Milagros Charbonier, was criticized by groups advocating for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and transgender communities (LGBTT), who argued this could be used to discriminate.

If enacted into law, the legislative piece would have allowed a person to breach any statute or government norm if it went against his/her religious principles.

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