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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Civil groups drafting bill to improve Anti-Corruption Code

Sembrando Sentido Executive Director Issel Masses

By The Star Staff

Two civil organizations have prepared draft amendments to the 2018 Anti-Corruption Code to make current law stronger and more efficient in the detection of corrupt acts in Puerto Rico.

Somos Más and Sembrando Sentido joined forces to temper the controls against corruption that currently exist and remove gaps in the code.

“After months of working together, we have identified multiple areas that remain vulnerable in the government apparatus and it is precisely those areas that we seek to address through the amendments,” Somos Más spokesman Johnny Rullán Shmidt said.

On Jan. 4, 2018, then-governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares enacted the Anticorruption Code for a New Puerto Rico to consolidate separately enacted anti-corruption legislation The code, among other things, establishes the rights, duties and ethical responsibilities for current and former government officials and for private entities and individuals who provide goods and/or services to the Puerto Rico government, as well as for government whistleblowers.

The draft measure has not been formally presented to legislators, but Rullán Schmidt indicated that next week the groups would start seeking meetings with members of the different legislative delegations to gather support for the measure.

The amendments would seek to extend the Code of Ethics to contractors with the legislative and judicial branches, prohibit political donations from people with government contracts, strengthen the processes for alerting or reporting acts of corruption, increase the information contained in the Registry of Persons Convicted of Corruption and add civil society representatives to the Interagency Anti-Corruption Group.

Sembrando Sentido Executive Director Issel Masses highlighted that there are currently a hundred laws and regulations that establish guidelines to limit corruption in contracting processes. However, in practice, having so many regulations causes confusion about what processes to implement to process complaints and local cases of corruption, so it makes sense to combine the measures into a single measure, as proposed with the planned bill.

“Not only is it fragmented and we want to standardize that process, but being fragmented makes it very difficult, almost impossible, to know exactly what one should do and what one’s role is and what controls one should put in place to protect the people’s resources,” Masses said.

“Unifying it is the first step to being able to identify those remaining weaknesses with greater agility,” she added.

The measure comes as several island mayors have left their seats following accusations of corruption.

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