The San Juan Daily Star
Dalmau Santiago proposes stronger legislative oversight of federal reconstruction funds
By The Star Staff
Given what he characterized as the slowness of the commonwealth government in using over $70 billion in federal funds for the reconstruction of Puerto Rico, Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago introduced legislation for government agencies to render accounts to the Legislature every 90 days, which the upper chamber leader assured would guarantee effective control and comprehensive transparency in the use of such resources.
The senator stressed that to ensure that the legislative branch has all the pertinent information to exercise its responsibility to control and expedite the use of funds, the agencies would provide the Legislature, every 90 days, with an updated report on the amount and origin of federal funds, an itinerary for the delivery of those resources, as well as the amount and source of the state contribution that is required.
In addition, they must present a description of the initiative, public work, or project to be developed with the specific economic resources with details about the objectives of the proposed development and all its costs; the itinerary of execution and completion of the initiative, work or project, including estimates of dates of the different stages of the process such as evaluation of proposals, award of contract or bidding. The agencies should also provide information on the start of the service, work or project and its completion date; detail of the process through which the initiative, work or project was granted or awarded and identification of the person, entity or contractor in charge of executing the work and the metrics adopted to measure compliance with the execution itinerary, among other details.
“More than five years have passed since Hurricane Maria in 2017 and more than three years since the strong earthquakes that severely impacted the southern sector of our country. These events brought million-dollar allocations of resources for the reconstruction of the country’s infrastructure, for the rehabilitation of the energy network and its transition to renewable sources, for the construction of new homes, among other purposes,” Dalmau Santiago said. “A recent estimate from the firm Estudios Técnicos revealed that Congress had allocated over $74.2 billion for the structural reconstruction of Puerto Rico, through various federal programs.”
The Senate president emphasized that, despite this substantial amount of federal resources, the island government needs to be faster in implementing an aggressive development plan for works and projects that boost the local economy.
“We remember the visit in March 2022 of HUD [Housing and Urban Development] secretary Marcia Fudge, who demanded greater agility from the government of Pierluisi in the processing and execution of housing projects and works,” Dalmau Santiago said. “We also remember the visit of President Biden, after Hurricane Fiona, where he appointed the secretary of Energy as a close supervisor of the effort to rebuild the country’s energy network, given the extreme slowness of the government in this effort. FEMA officials have criticized the delay in developing the works required to meet the needs of Puerto Ricans.”
Dalmau Santiago said Puerto Rico residents can count on a better quality of life if the corresponding entities’ billion-dollar allocations of federal funds are used with agility, responsibility, honesty, and the most excellent transparency.
“To ensure the security and fiscal health of constituents, it is necessary to monitor the process from its allocation by the federal government until the completion of the initiative, work or project for which said funds were allocated,” he said.