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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Comptroller finds that Municipality of Villalba improperly paid volunteers


The situation in the town of Villalba was referred to the island Treasury secretary, who confirmed by letter that in effect the payments of over $500 made to volunteers must be reported to the department through the informative declaration required in Law 1-2011.

By The Star Staff


The Comptroller of Puerto Rico issued a qualified opinion on the fiscal operations of the Municipality of Villalba alleging that the municipality informed the Department of Treasury of payments of $500 or more to the Volunteers of Villalba program.


A qualified opinion is issued when an individual or organizational breaches are significant but not widespread.


From 2015 to 2018, the municipality had issued payments of $2,527,975 to 458 volunteers of the program established by ordinance in 2007.


The situation was referred to the island Treasury secretary, who confirmed by letter that in effect the payments of over $500 made to volunteers must be reported to the department through the informative declaration required in Law 1-2011. The finding has the effect that it encourages tax evasion to the detriment of the Treasury.


The audit of three findings indicates that the municipality awarded contracts with employee characteristics to six pensioners for a total of $264,665 in the period examined. That situation undermines the principle of merit, the comptroller said.


In fact, three of the pensioners did not inform the Teacher Retirement System of their return to active duty. The executive director of the system indicated to the Comptroller’s Office that they will process a collection action, since Law 160-2013 establishes that when a pensioner occupies a paid position in the government, the payment of the pension is suspended.


In addition, the municipality overpaid $19,900 to the pensioner who served as director of the Department of Public Works since, contrary to the regulations in force, the remuneration may not exceed half of the salary allocated to the same full-time job. For the position, a maximum payment of $2,144 per month corresponded to the term of the contract from 2016 to 2018.


For those actions, the officials who authorized the transactions and payments may be subject to penalties contemplated in the Autonomous Municipalities Law (81-1991).


The comptroller’s report also reveals that 16 payments were made improperly to four employees while they were on leave without pay for $6,774. The municipality did not provide the auditors with evidence on internal controls, employee training, or payment plans granted to prevent such a situation from recurring.


The audit also comments on the accumulated deficits in the Villalba Operational Fund of 66% in 2015, 74% in 2016, 91% in 2017, 67% in 2018 and 61% in 2019. In the budgets from 2017 to 2019, the municipality did not allocate the necessary appropriations to settle current deficits.

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