The problems of citizens do not cease when making claims related to public services, and even when people resort to the Office of the Citizen’s Attorney (Ombudsman), they do not always manage to speed up the procedures.
The Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (AAA) and the State Insurance Fund Corporation (CFSE) top the list of citizen complaints for inappropriate treatment. The Department of Housing, the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP) and the Department of the Treasury are also not exempt from claims, particularly for property titles, holes in the roads that damage cars and citizens who still do not receive a check from $ 1,200 in federal aid for the Covid-19 emergency.
The ombudsman of Puerto Rico, Edwin García Feliciano, detailed in an interview with THE SPOKESMAN that from July 1 to the present they have received 1,234 complaints against PREPA for blackouts or load shifts that have caused damage to property. In addition, he received a total of 275 complaints against the Treasury from citizens who requested the check for $ 1,200 and have not received it yet.
“We have had several conversations with the engineer Thomas Torres Placa, consumer representative on the PREPA Governing Board, because of how difficult it is for the citizen to comply with the procedures required by PREPA in order to be able to replace the money in case of damaged by an electrical enser. In that sense, what we want is to seek a measure that allows citizens to make a claim and that the documentation and the way in which they have to present their case is not so onerous for the citizen, who at the end of the road ends up giving up ” , expressed García Feliciano.
Last week, the head of technical operations of PREPA, Carlos Alvarado, when he was approached about the situation with the interruptions in the service and the complaint of the subscribers, said that they can claim in the regional offices the damage to appliances due to overvoltage, if this is the case. To do this – he clarified – they must write down the day and time “for us to search, because an investigation is being carried out.”
The ombudsman explained that the procedure between his office and the public agency for the attention of complaints can be extended between 30 to 60 days, and depends on how agile the government agency is in appointing a facilitator to attend the cases. “The equation has to be that when we send the citizen’s complaint, that facilitator is diligent, that he has the trust of the agency head, that there is assertive communication between both parties and at the end of the day we may have to tell the citizen that their complaints to PREPA or any other agency as it lacks foundation, “he said.
In the case of PREPA, he pointed out that the load changes are not notified to the regions and that even though there is a communication on the PREPA page, “it seems to us that it is not enough. While about the DTOP he said that the claim process is also bureaucratic. “To a large extent, we know that people sometimes do not want to continue with the complaint because it is already burdensome. Perhaps missing a day of work or looking for documentation that is tedious beyond the fact that there was a power outage. Why don’t we try to simplify this situation so that the authority can respond to the citizen? ”He asked.
However, the Ombudsman mentioned that even though PREPA, AAA and CFSE are the ones that have the most complaints, at the end of the day – even though the process should take less time – they are the most responsive entities when they are approached.
Credibility in question
García Feliciano said that the lack of response in services to citizens causes the agencies to lose credibility. He stated that “the credibility of all government agencies is in question. Some more and others less, but specifically PREPA is an agency that does not enjoy the best credibility with the people ”.
“Although it is true that the federal government has allocated close to $ 10.5 billion for the electrical infrastructure, it is no less true that when you have a light bulb not installed in front of your house that credibility continues to be affected,” he said.
He insisted that the agility in the claims process mostly depends on the facilitator assigned by the government agency and on his boss. “Sometimes just one facilitator in your government agency is not enough. I know that agencies resent when one requests information, but they all have to be willing to collaborate when required, “he said.
Cases that are not resolved at the Treasury
Of the total of 275 complaints that he received against the Treasury for the $ 1,200 check, they were only able to resolve 144, so there are 131 remaining. “We are concerned about what remains and if that number is representative of the people who have not yet received payment. It may be that not and that is why communication with the Treasury is important, which has become a bit complicated for us, ”he said.
He argued that most of the cases related to the $ 1,200 check are created by the citizen himself. “What I’m going to do is that if you have a problem you have to call the Citizen. Sometimes there is a problem with the account where it is going to be deposited and they say they are going to send it by mail and it never arrives. Sometimes, for example, I have a case that was initially filed as a marriage and then as it is individually because it is up to the Treasury to collate that information, but it is not that three or four months pass to collate that information, “he said.
He explained that he has not been able to communicate with the secretary Francisco Parés, although they have even sent him “text messages”, made calls and went to La Fortaleza. “Unfortunately for a reason that I do not know, that communication has not reached from there to here. We have done the management, but we don’t know what reasons there are ”, he stated.
For the owner, communication with the Treasury management is important to know the work plan and the reasons why payments are late.