San Juan – The failed process to purchase rapid COVID-19 tests by the Government of Puerto Rico for 38 million dollars was “impossible to trace,” said Natalie Jaresko, director of the Fiscal Control Board (JCF) on Wednesday.
“The result of that investigation is that nobody can say with certainty how this process happened. There was no formal documentation of the process to identify any of the critical points. For example, who gave the order, who approved it, there is no evidence whether the checks were written in the quality of what was purchased. What was evident in what was sent to us – and we reviewed thousands of messages and documents – was that there was no formality to buy during emergencies or exceptional situations, ”Jaresko said at a press conference.
“It was done on an ad hoc basis, which does not allow it to be reviewed or audited, because there is no basic documentation. There is no identifiable person who has identified the need, who found the potential suppliers, how the supplier was chosen, who approved it. That did not exist until this moment. That was a difficult process to track. We are not an agency of law and order. We focus on improving things and that is what we are doing. Learn from what happened with the COVID purchases, “he added.
Justice Department officials did not recommend the appointment of an Independent Special Prosecutor (FEI) against the former Secretary of Health, Concepción Quiñones de Longo or against Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced for the failed multi-million dollar purchase.
Their expressions were made during the announcement of the implementation of the new Procurement Regulations of the Government of Puerto Rico, by the General Services Administration (ASG).
Jaresko rejected that they want to be a face-to-face part in the government auctions and / or purchases processes
“Our role will continue to be one of supervision, neither more nor less than what the PROMESA Law allows. We are not going to be in the day-to-day implementation of decision-making. There will be no presence in the processes, but by law we have the power to review contracts. And as you know, we decided to evaluate all contracts over $ 10 million. Our role with the General Services Administration will be to advise and ensure that the implementation is completed as soon as possible, ”said Jaresko.
According to Karla Mercado Rivera, administrator of ASG and main government procurement official, with the approval of Law 73-2019, ordered the entity, among other things, the promulgation of a single regulation of purchases and auctions in order to standardize the procurement and bidding process in the Government of Puerto Rico.
“This is not just another regulation. It is the instrument that will allow us to generate significant savings and greater efficiency for the treasury. Because transparency translates into savings and trust in all sectors. We want to give back to the citizens their trust in their government. In this way, we set out to comply with the plan entrusted to us by the Board, when it ordered the creation of the new agency model, ”said Mercado Rivera.
He explained that the process of developing the new regulation, which took months to reach consensus, had the participation of representatives from different industries such as the Industrial Association, the United Center for Retailers (CUD) and the Contractors Association, among others.