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With the beginning of the new fiscal year, the administration of governor Ricardo Rosselló intends to step from conceptualization to implementation and put together a new government which, aligned with the fund reduction, adapts to the consigned budget, and achieves agility, to be a facilitator and smaller but efficient.
To do so, among other things, some functions will be delegated to the private sector, the non-governmental organizations (NGO), the municipalities and the academia.
Such government under new general guidelines should have several pillars, stated the governor.
“Firstly, it is a government that could implement the necessary changes, not only design them. Secondly, that it could measure the effectiveness of what is being done and could make decisions based on that measuring. Thirdly, it must be as we have discussed in the past: structurally smaller, but more effective in services for the citizens. All that does count on the cooperation of non profitable organisations and the private sector, the local government, the academia, among other institutions”, he added. He recalled that the Federal Opportunities Center will cooperate with the third sector to look for federal funding.
With that routemap, this fiscal year the executive branch will implement the first Public-Private Partnerships Participation (APPP, Spanish acronym), the second and third merges of governmental agencies, the elemination of the archaic or duplicated processes, a strict attachment to the approved budget and to the cost reduction and a direct service to the people using technology and access to more federal funds. All those initiatives, said Rosselló in an interview with El Nuevo Día, will make up the government he promised when aspiring for first official of the Island.
“We were able to show that we have the ability to execute and now we are in charge of implementing a series of fiscal measures, but also a numberless log of measures to improve the quality of life and economy of Puerto Rico. This is the government that I visualize, one of results”, affirmed the governor.
To implement the changes, Rosselló will make use of the tools created in the first six months of the administration such as the labor reform, the Single Employer Act (Law 8- 2017), the Puerto Rico Financial Emergency and Fiscal Responsibility Act (Law 3- 2017), the Organic Act of the Office for Socio-Economic and Community Development of Puerto Rico (Law 10-2017), the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), the Federal Opportunities Center, the Puerto Rico Innovation and Technology Center, and Enterprise Puerto Rico
In this task, however, the budget approved with reductions under the protection of the Oversight Board, the controversy with that federal entity and the litigation in the Federal Court for restructuring the debt under Title III of PROMESA are the first challenges, acknowledged Rosselló. “But they also allow us the opportunity to forward certain agenda items”, he noted.
Being this the case, the APPP, which the governor also calls “externalizations” will be the key so the government not only can be freed from tasks at which it is not effective, but also to bring money to its fragile coffers.
Rosselló revealed that between August and September, the first requests for the APPP will come out and cover various areas. “It includes maritime transport, government parking components (government parking franchise), the water metering of Aqueducts (replacement of the water meters with electronic systems), as well as opportunities inside the regional airports, ports and highways”, he precised.
“What we have have established is a three-year plan where we anticipate an investment of $5 billion for Puerto Rico economy, projecting the creation of almost 80,000 to 100,000 jobs”, he added.
Private presence in PREPA
In the same way, an APPP is projected for infrastructure plans in energy. “We have a vision of a new energy model for Puerto Rico where we can be ensured and start a transition to transform the energy system to a stable one so energy can be produced at competitive levels for the economic development and for our citizens”, he explained.
Yesterday the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority entered the bankruptcy process with the request of the Board to be included in Title III of PROMESA federal law.
The energy projects will be tied to legislative efforts. In that line of work, Rosselló mentioned the fiscal reform, the transparency project, the Incentive Code, measures to make sure that the new system “pay as you go” works in Retirement, other projects to facilitate the new model of the health reform and the measures to continue with the consolidation of agencies.
The objective, he said, is to leave the government with about 35 agencies. The first consolidation was the Public Security Department, created last April. The Department of Family Affairs which will group all agencies that performs social services, will follow. “As soon as the new legislative session start Family will be discussed, aware that now that the structure attends our more vulnerable sectors: the children, the elderly, the homeless, among others. A structure consolidated and more effective at serving will be established”, he said.
Then will come the Economic Development & Commerce Department, which will consolidate more than ten agencies, he anticipated. And, the next step, Rosselló revealed, will be to reform all the agencies that attend to environmental issues such as the Environmental Quality Board (JCA, Spanish acronym) and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DRNA, Spanish acronym), among others. This two agencies will have only one director: Tania Vázquez Rivera.
Through what he called Project Management Office there will be different groups in every agency checking that the use of the public funds is prudent and that it adapts to the budget. “There are about 20 groups that will be focused in the execution and in having results. We have already shaped them”, he assured.
He pointed out that the government money “was not being used in an effective way and it has not been given an optimal use to serve the people for numberless reasons, among them (that) there are too many structures, error duplications that ends in enlarging the processes and that in those cases the results are nefarious”.
“What we can not have are past practices, of overturning, taking money...the famous multiannual encapsulated allocations were $1 million or $1.5 million more than budgeted was spent. We have taken action to eliminate that practice”, he assured, referring to the inclusion of allocations intended for NGOs in the agencies budget.
He assured that the working day reduction and the elimination of the Christmas bonus will not come true. Even though those measures did not happen on July 1st, they are latent until September. The governor insisted in that he will use Section 205 of PROMESA to oppose to that request of the Board.
About the model of offering a more direct service , Rosselló said that technology will be of the essential.
“We have already opened two integrated service centers where citizens can receive most of the government services. We are also using the technology so that citizens can interact and resolve their problems in the most effective way”, he explained.
For example, he said that this process simplifications in the government, which result in better service and access, and will be seen in the ongoing transformation of the Department of Education (DE).
“In Education we now have regions, districts. A series of bureaucratic layers created by circular letters. What we want to do is finding a mechanism that can aid to the viability that every cent inside the government can reach the end of the line that are going to be the students and the classrooms”, he stated.
The secretary of the DE, Julia Keleher, proposes the elimination of all scholar districts, and that regions could individually compete for the federal funds
That is why, the government agencies will help so that public schools are ready for the beginning of classes in August, he said. “The “back to school” is an effort of just one government. And what we seek is that the essential school services will operate the right way, that they are there and that every student starts classes on the first day. It goes hand to hand with the teacher selection, on which the secretary is focused”, Rosselló explained.
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