The government has failed to process tens of thousands of documents in the Property Registry, a task that was supposed to begin in February last year and which was halted with the arrival of Covid-19.
Ending the accumulation of these documents is one of the priorities identified by the Fiscal Control Board to improve the process of doing business in Puerto Rico. The Registry is a dependency of the Department of Justice and its main function is to register documents related to real estate transactions on the Island.
The designated Secretary of Justice Domingo Emanuelli affirmed that the project announced in February 2020 was paralyzed after a few weeks due to the closure caused by the pandemic.
He also recognized that the thousands of unprocessed documents are an impediment to the economic development of the country.
“Right now there are 300,000 documents pending registration. Of the sections we have, 12 of the 29 are up to date. Currently about 11,000 documents are received per month for registration and 15,000 are being processed per month ”, he explained.
The secretary, who was appointed in January to head the agency, said they are working on a legislative proposal to expedite the registration of documents.
“This affects the economy of the country. We are going to propose a bill to streamline registrations, but with some safeguards so that while registration is streamlined, security is maintained in the registry tract, “he said.
It takes staff
The secretary assured that one of the issues that delays enrollment is the lack of personnel, which was intended to remedy with the hiring of university students.
“Right now there are 300 employees in this area and 37 property registrars,” he explained. “In some cases the registration is done manually, but it always has to be qualified. I think there are several elements that contribute to this. There are registrars who are getting work done quickly. There are others who have to be a little more active in qualifying the documents. There are many highly complex documents that require the intervention of one or more people and are voluminous. That document delays another type of work in the registry ”, he specified.
In February of last year the then Secretary of Justice, Dennise Longo, signed an agreement with the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and the fiscal board for the hiring of 130 university students who would work to speed up the processing of documents. With the disbursement of $ 383,100 released by the fiscal board, they would also hire five notaries public and five supervisors. They also announced that Justice would have $ 2 million to use in expenses related to the initiative.
Emanuelli said that he spoke with the director of the Registry, Joaquín del Río, “and he told me that he has already started a new project and that he intends to bring between 20 to 30 students because we are facing the pandemic.”
“Once this pandemic is over, he tells me that he would hope to extend it to 80 students. He does not believe that it is wise to take it to 130 students because it would have to generate a double schedule and it would be very expensive, “he explained.
Edward Zayas, spokesman for the board, confirmed in written statements that “the scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the process and the project has recently been resumed for which, initially, 20 students will be recruited, due to space measures” .
“It should also be noted that during the time that the internship program was delayed, the employees themselves have carried out significant improvements in their internal processes, to the point that their document reserve – which has historically been around 400,000 – it has been reduced by 80,000 documents ”, he reported.
Collaboration with the UPR
The vice president of professional and distance programs at the University of Puerto Rico, Lisa Nieves Oslán, said in written statements that after the agreement was signed, they began recruiting students who would work on the project.
“In that period, 170 students were recruited to carry out the work, exceeding institutional expectations. Thus, on March 1, 2020, the selected students began to offer their services in the Property Registry. This project continued to be implemented for two weeks until the closing of operations in the agencies ”, he added. “It should be noted that the work done by the contracted students was duly paid to the participants,” he reported.
He assured that the UPR is interested in continuing with the project and that it has been communicated to Justice since last May.
“Our greatest interest is to be able to resume this project as soon as possible, so since May 2020 we have sent various communications to the administrative director of the Registry, as well as to the Fiscal Oversight Board,” he said.
“It is important to highlight that this project has the support of the fiscal entity, as it aims to improve the positioning of Puerto Rico as a destination for doing business, in addition to expanding the learning opportunities of our students,” he added.
Regarding the funds that were allocated to the project, he reported that they total $ 10 million, assigned to the UPR to “provide training to public servants, as well as technical assistance to personnel of government agencies.”