AAFAF advances corrective action plan for developmental disabilities council after feds pull plug on

By John McPhaul

Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (AAFAF by its Spanish acronym) Executive Director Omar Marrero Díaz announced on Wednesday that the syndication process of the State Council on Devel- opmental Disabilities (CEDD) has ended.

“Unfortunately, mismanagement and non-compli- ance for approximately eight years caused the federal government to issue a Cease and Desist order related to the allocation of funds to the CEDD, so that this entity is currently not offering services to the population with disabilities,” Marrero Díaz said in a written statement. “However, in line with the public policy of Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced and through the mechanism of the syndicate, the AAFAF team managed to get the federal government to approve a Corrective Action Plan that would respond to the serious indications of the federal government.”

“In addition, the reconciliation and accountability work of the CEDD program component was launched,” he added. “It is essential to establish that, thanks to the negotiations and agreements, it was also possible to use part of the administrative fund within the federal budget for the process of preparing and implementing the corrective action plan.”

Marrero Díaz said that since 2015, the CEDD has received cuts of $5.4 million in its allocations due to noncompliance with federal regulations. Furthermore, at the time of the AAFAF intervention in May 2019, the CEDD was at risk of losing an additional $1.6 million due to lack of proper documentation. However, with the syndication process, the AAFAF obtained the ap- proval of these and other reimbursements, amounting to $3.4 million.

The AAFAF executive director noted that another of the achievements that formed part of the Corrective Action Plan was the fiscal closure of the projects subsidized with the aforementioned federal funds aimed at the developmentally disabled population in Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, Marrero Díaz announced that the Office of the Ombudsman for People with Disabilities (DPI by its Span- ish initials) remains under the syndication process after the federal government has alleged noncompliance with federal regulations and mismanagement of the funds it administers. “The AAFAF also developed a Corrective Action Plan for the DPI in accordance with federal requirements in order to correct the reported deficiencies and so that this vulner- able community continues to benefit from the functions and programs offered by the agency,” Marrero Díaz said. “In order for our corrective plan to bear fruit and ensure an effective and optimal operation, we need to guarantee by law the federal and state separation of the efforts cor- responding to the program in order to avoid duplication of funds and inconsistencies in the operation of the DPI, and thus be able to safeguard the minimum guarantees that this type of agency requires to operate.”

He noted that Rep. Néstor Alonso filed House Bill 2301 to create the Office of the Ombudsman for Persons with Disabilities and to create and designate the Protection and Defense Division of Puerto Rico. The legislation aims to promote the healthy development of the public entity and make new services available.

The bill repeals the current legislation and tries to give more force to the commonwealth entity that watches over the rights of people with disabilities and guarantees the requirements of the federal government regarding program- matic and fiscal compliance. In addition, it addresses the corrective actions developed and implemented by the AAFAF to avoid cease and desist determinations related to federal funds.

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