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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Comptroller: Northwest ALDL fell short in federal funding use for job creation

Commonwealth Comptroller Yesmín Valdivieso Galib

By The Star Staff

The commonwealth Comptroller’s Office said Tuesday that the Northwest Local Labor Development Area (Northwest ALDL) could have used more federal funding to create jobs.

The finding was part of an audit into the Northwest ALDL fiscal operations, which found significant but not widespread noncompliance with standard operational practices. The audit covered the period from Jan. 1, 2017 to June 30, 2021.

Report DA-23-09 reveals that the Northwest ALDL did not use $7.3 million in the funds delegated from 2016 to 2019 to create training and job opportunities for youth, adults and displaced workers. The amount constitutes 49% of the federal funds agreed upon through contracts between the Northwest ALDL and the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish acronym).

DDEC manages funds sent under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and must ensure their use following the Unified State Plan. The municipalities of Aguadilla, Aguada, Añasco, Isabela, Moca, Rincón, and San Sebastián are part of the Northwest ALDL.

The audit of three findings indicates that, as of June 30, 2021, the Northwest ALDL’s Board of Mayors still needed to update the regulations governing its operation, duties, and responsibilities under the provisions of the WIOA in force since July 1, 2015. The situation makes it challenging to assign duties in case of irregularities or errors in operations.

The audit report notes that the local board did not hold four meetings required by the regulations. The board also failed to approve 95% of the minutes and held extraordinary meetings without the necessary quorum. The local board comprises an executive director and 24 representatives of the private and educational sectors of the municipalities that make up the Northwest ALDL.

The indicated shortcomings, the audit report said, make it difficult for local board members to communicate, collaborate and coordinate on strategies to meet the needs of workers and employers. In addition, the legality of the decisions or agreements of the board could be questioned, the report said.

The Northwest ALDL budget was $4.4 million in 2017, $5.3 million in 2018, $5.4 million in 2019 and $6.4 million in 2020.

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