Within hours that Governor Wanda Vázquez summoned the Legislative Assembly to meet at its fifth extraordinary session in order to attend to different measures, including a project that seeks to ensure that the Bureau of Forensic Sciences (NCF) is not part of the Department of Public Safety (DSP), employees of said agency express themselves in this regard.
Referring to the approval of the House Bill 2075 of 2019, the employees emphasize that the NCF must be separated from the DSP as a matter of urgency so that it can retake its system with fiscal and administrative autonomy, which is crucial to prevent the dismantling of services.
“We strongly request that the NCF be separated from the DSP and that the Institute of Forensic Sciences be created as an independent entity so that it can provide services as established by law in an agile and accurate manner. We also request that a mechanism be created to raise funds to the agency to review the salary scale periodically and thus avoid the exodus of experts for non-competent salaries, ”reads part of the paper sent to members of the Legislative Assembly and which was signed by NCF employees, Carlos Vélez Miranda and Edgardo L. Vera López.
The workers also request that the agency be given the authority to reverse changes in job requirements so that they meet the necessary scientific requirements. to carry out the analyzes that the agency carries out. They express that since the approval of Law 20-2017, which created the DSP, the agency has gone through a process of administrative transformation from independent to dependent, where it lost its fiscal autonomy.
“Process that includes changing digital and effective methods that streamline purchasing processes to a paper and inefficient process. In addition, it has had to enter the fiscal bureaucracy that has increased the agency's operating expenses in order to fulfill its organic functions, "they argue.
They also recall that the mission of the NCF is to put science at the service of justice , but that since the process of integration into the DSP began, it has been observed how the deterioration of the operation has caused chaos in the community of Puerto Rico.
“This was evidenced when Hurricane Maria hit the Island and hundreds of corpses at the agency, causing operational dysfunction, related to poor and inexperienced administration, imposed by the DSP secretary. Lack of proper screening when receiving non-autopsy corpses filled the coolers and increased the workload of available pathologists. Restrictions on the services that the agency offers, such as cremations, were interrupted by the bureaucratic process for the payment of this. "They added.
They added that currently almost all laboratories have shortages of materials and reagents, and that both maintenance preventive equipment as the certifications of some measurement instruments have expired.
“The purchase of these services has been interrupted because the agency's personnel have been transferred to the DSP to carry out other work and the agency does not have personnel to process orders. The daily amount of purchases is $ 15,000 per buyer, there are only two in the agency, so you cannot force more than 30,000 daily, "they argue.
" These restrictions impede the flow of orders, even if we make a calculation Immediate, based on the fact that the year is 52 weeks old and of these only 50 are operational, this fixed amount is not compatible with the budget assigned to cover operational expenses. In many cases the DSP requests contracts for services and this process takes around 6 to 8 months. Payments to suppliers have been affected because the transfers must be approved by DSP personnel and this delays the process, "they mentioned.
Likewise, they said that the recruitment of personnel has also been affected in several aspects, because OATRH made changes to the requirements of the positions that are not consistent with the needs of the agency. “DSP prohibited the agency from carrying out the investigations and now they are carried out by the police, which is why they are no longer a priority because it must take turns alongside the other investigations they have been assigned. The selection of the personnel is made in the DSP and they are not necessarily those chosen by the agency. This process is severely affected by the delays imposed, "they noted.
" By becoming part of the DSP, the agency must comply with the provisions of ASG to authorize public employees to drive official vehicles. To obtain this permit, you must pay $ 125 per employee who will use vehicles, must also take a course and requires annual renewal. In the NCF, 90% of the personnel are experts, which implies that they must attend the court to give evidence in the cases they analyze, so they must have authorization. This expense was not included in the budget because previously the agency was exempt from complying with this requirement, "they commented.