The appointment of the secretary of Public Affairs of La Fortaleza, Osvaldo Soto, as head of the Comptroller’s Office is hanging by a thread. Several lawmakers from the majority of the New Progressive Party (PNP) have already stated that votes for his confirmation are not available.
Asked about his professional credentials, Governor Wanda Vázquez’s designee joins other appointments that have been questioned. The difference with this designation is that the voices against come from within the PNP and it takes by surprise some legislators who had other expectations about the figure that for the next 10 years will have the task of examining the income, accounts, contracts and disbursements of the State.
Soto is not an accountant by profession, as other people who occupied the Comptroller’s chair had been. His experience is as a communicator, public affairs advisor in the Senate and La Fortaleza and he is a law graduate. Despite the criticisms, the Organic Law of the Comptroller’s Office establishes as a requirement that this official be over 30 years old, be a US citizen and have residence on the island, but it does not require that he be an accountant.
Sources related to the PNP in the Legislature consulted by THE SPOKESMAN They agreed that one of the biggest frictions with the appointment of Soto is that they fear that he will accommodate those close to the governor in high-ranking and well-paid positions in the Comptroller’s office. “We are outraged by that,” said one of the sources.
In addition to Soto, yesterday the appointment of 28 judges and 38 prosecutors was reported. The press secretary of the governor and former journalist Mariana Cobián was also appointed associate commissioner of the Telecommunications Bureau.
Meanwhile, Angelo Cruz Ramos, mayor of Ceiba defeated in the last primaries, was appointed as an associate member of the Auction Board of the General Services Administration (ASG).
In the case of Cruz Ramos, last night this media contacted the General Services administrator, Karla Mercado, who confirmed that the nominating entities in the agency – which include her – did not make such a recommendation and that they are surprised.
Pierluisi expresses his concern
The NPP gubernatorial candidate who defeated the governor in recent primaries, Pedro Pierluisi, urged the Legislature to make a thorough evaluation of the nominee. “Given the extraordinary fiscal challenges facing our government, this appointment requires special skills and qualifications. Good intentions are not enough, “said the PNP president in written statements.
For their part, the spokesmen for the majority in the Chamber and Senate did not know yesterday if Vázquez previously consulted the designation with Presidents Carlos “Johnny” Méndez and Thomas Rivera Schatz. They also warned that it will be difficult to obtain the majority of the votes in both legislative bodies, as required by the Constitution.
“Unfortunately I think that the governor made a mistake in appointing him prior to the elections because she brings primarist and political arguments to a position that is sensitive, that she has to serve the people for 10 years. That would disappear if it had been appointed after the election period, “said PNP spokesman in the Senate, Carmelo Ríos.
He said that Soto’s appointment creates an environment for public opinion to discuss whether it is “a political favor” and pointed out that the position should not be subject to having an advisor who complements his functions. In addition, he stated that although the Senate considers Soto as a person, “from there to having the votes is a totally different evaluation.”
Some of the names recommended by PNP legislators for the position included Finance Secretary Francisco Parés; the Secretary of the Senate, Manuel Torres; the former mayor of Camuy, Edwin García Feliciano, and the mayor of San Sebastián, Javier Jiménez.
Migdalia Padilla will not give him the vote
The president of the Senate Finance Commission, Migdalia Padilla, indicated that Soto does not have her vote and that she would not change her mind, even if the nominee had the support of Rivera Schatz. “First of all, I have my reservations regarding that appointment. I understand that not after having had the opportunity to meet Manuel Díaz Saldaña and Yesmín Valdivieso, and others who have held that position, who are people versed in the control of public funds in the government and in the municipalities, “he said.
“I do not know of his preparation that he has knowledge of external or internal audits. I do not know what his role was here in the Senate, but I understand that there are people who perhaps should be better prepared. Must be a person with experience in auditing and as a certified public accountant. None of this is related to the appointment of the governor, ”added the senator.
For his part, the chamber president -Méndez- did not agree to an interview, but said publicly that the nominee does not have the votes to be confirmed. The vice president of the Chamber, José “Pichy” Torres Zamora, could not assure it either. “I know Osvaldo and he is my friend, but the appointment, in my personal character, I will give him scrutiny because he deserves to reach public hearings,” he said.
“Certainly, the Constitution does not speak of having to be an accountant, but tradition tells you that everyone has to be an accountant,” added the legislator. He also mentioned that he knows of three PNP representatives who do not have an opinion on Soto and of two others who admitted that they would vote against him.
The PNP spokesman in the Chamber, Gabriel Rodríguez Aguiló, said that although he will give space to listen to Soto and know his proposals, he had other expectations about that nomination. “You must have experience in accounting, administration, budgeting and supervision. I think it is very important because, basically, what does the controller do? The comptroller intervenes to audit, supervise and question on matters of contracting and fiscal budgets. It is important that the person has these characteristics ”, he explained.
PNP representatives will meet today in a caucus to discuss the appointment and the measures that were included as part of the special session. To be confirmed in that body, Soto would need 26 votes out of a total of 51 representatives between the majority and the minority.
For her part, the governor defended the appointment and although she acknowledged that Soto is not an accountant, she stated that he will be surrounded by people who do have experience in accounting and auditing. She denied that it is a “screwed up” to maintain her legacy in government.
“My legacy is to do good for Puerto Rico, it has nothing to do with a particular position, much less use the adjective screwed. I do not see him that way and much less, he is an official who is going to go through the confirmation of the Chamber and Senate, “he said.
Soto would have a salary of $ 129,000 a year.