In the middle of a fiscal crisis and the historic public debt restructuring of the Island, at least, 26 agencies head executives have a better salary than their predecessors. Of those, nine occupy more than one position in the cabinet.
That is the conclusion that comes from the information provided by La Fortaleza to El Nuevo Día about the salaries received by these 88 executives with positions in the government.
Ricardo Roselló Nevares administration claims, nevertheless, that the pay sheet of the current cabinet implies a reduction of $1,617,493. However, this newspaper could not check that statement, for it has not received the complete information about the salaries of all the executives of the agencies. La Fortaleza has committed to deliver today, Monday, the data missing. The information about the current salaries of the Executive branch and of those who were part of the former governor Alejandro García Padilla administration was requested by this newspaper last April 3rd.
Among the information provided, the government did not include the salary information of the secretary of Public Security, Hector Pesquera, who has an annual contract of $248,500.
The complete information of the salaries of at least 10 members of the executive branch was also not provided, including the directors of the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel, Cardiovascular Center of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean and the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
As for the secretary of Health, Rafael Rodríguez Mercado, it was disclosed that his annual salary is of $108,000 as professor of Medical Science Campus at the University of Puerto Rico, but it was not clarified if he also receives a neurosurgeon and military salary.
When Pesquera’s contract is deducted from the $1.6 millions savings that Roselló Nevares administration demands, it is reduced to $1,368,993 and the expense calculation by employee overpasses the one of 2016 by $2,483
According to the information provided by La Fortaleza, the 2016 pay sheet was of $11,024,109 and, in this first year of the new four-year term, it ascends to $9,655,065. At the same time, in 2017 the total amount of officials in these positions of trust rises to 89, if Pesquera is included, while in 2016, there were 104.
Even though the information provided is not complete, the secretary of the Government, William Villafañe, insisted that the pay sheet savings will sustain on the fact that the salaries left to provide are equal to those of the last administration. Besides, he advanced that the contract of the secretary of Education, Julia Keleher, for $250,000 a year, is to be renewed from July 1st up to June 30, 2018.
“There is no reason not to renew it. She is doing her job. All this transformation of the Education Department is a process to produce a schooling system much more efficient and, at the same time, that more resources reach the classrooms, and she is complying with this process”, said Villafañe in an interview with El Nuevo Día.
The professor of Law, Carlos Ramos González, questioned the practice of giving contracts to the heads of agencies. “It is some kind of privatization of the public service. It is to privatize public functions”, he stated.
There are also reductions
At least, 11 heads of agency have a lower salaries than who occupied that position before, but the reduction of the pay sheet is not sustained in the means that there are salaries that, even though they do not come from the Executive branch salary budget, they are complementary. This is the case of the governor’s advisor on Federal Affairs, Frances Ortiz, who receives $5,774 a month from the Department of Labor. But, because she comes from detach, La Fortaleza pays her $3,226 to rise her monthly payment to $9,000.
Likewise, the director of the Puerto Rico Public Buildings Authority, Amílcar González Ortiz, appears without a salary in La Fortaleza’s pay sheet, but has a contract with the Government Development Bank up to $25,000 that expires on June 30th. He has said that he does not discard accepting, after that date, another agreement of the kind if offered.
Another particular case is the one of Rosselló Nevares advisor on urbanism, infrastructure and environment, María Palau, who, even though she works for the governor, the $120,000 she is payed a year comes from the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, as Villafañe confirmed.
“There are people here that look like they are not collecting anything from La Fortaleza’s budget because they come from detach or are being paid from another place, which helps to understand why they say they are paying less. But, in the end, the public money is the same, it comes from the government”, assured the retired professor of Public Administration, Mario Negrón Portillo.
“True vocation to public office in this time has to be double. The example must be set”, added, on his part, Ramos González.
Every one of the governors advisors, La Fortaleza administrator, the director of Communications and the Press secretary are paid monthly salaries, between $8,000 and $14,000, that ends up to be higher than those of the previous administration. The $14,000 a month payment belongs to Villafañe, who, through an executive order, was given a position of head official of administration and operations of State, besides of being secretary of the Government. The secretary of Public Affairs of La Fortaleza, Ramón Rosario, is paid $11,000 a month since, also by an executive order, the Secretary of Public Affairs and the Secretary of Public Policy were merged together.
Still, La Fortaleza holds that the total amount of the advisors pay sheet raises to $595,162.97, $138,102.37 less than the last administration. But it does not include some salaries such as the director of the Office of the Commissioner of Municipal Affairs, Omar Negrón, who, at the same time, is advisor on that subject. Villafañe said that Negrón is payed $9,000 a month or $108,000 a year.
Another one that is paid as an advisor is the secretary of Treasury, Raúl Maldonado, who gets $165,000 a year, when the Treasury position’s wage is $106,400. This, however, contrasts with the incomes of the last administration’s advisor on subjects related to Treasury. Opposite to a head of an agency, the advisors do not have a maximum salary limit established by law.
With this scenery at hand, the secretary of Government justified the rises by saying that, at the moment of recruiting for the executive cabinet, they looked for “quality” and that the “global” expense was not exceeded.
He recognised that thes increases make it harder for the people to understand the austerity message that the government communicates and that all should make an effort. “Definitely, the vast majority of the population do not have those salaries and it can be shocking for them. I understand that”, he noted.
“I ask the people to judge us by results”, he added.
Besides, he said that those officials that required a higher salary than the one of their predecessor were assigned two or more positions in the government. Such is the case of Manuel Laboy, who is paid $140,000 a year for commanding the Economic Development & Commerce Department (DEDC, Spanish acronym) and the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO). His predecessor on the DEDC, Alberto Bacó, earned $120,000 a year.
Another person with multiple labors in the government is Glorimar Andújar Matos - secretary of Family, administrator of Families and Children and of Families Economic Development -.
The Department of Family and the DEDC are the next agencies to be soon merged to achieve savings and efficiency.