Governor defends appointment of Public Affairs chief as comptroller

By The Star Staff

Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced on Tuesday defended the appointment of La Fortaleza Public Affairs and Public Policy Secretary Osvaldo Soto García as commonwealth comptroller, insisting that it was not a political appointment and that he has the qualifications needed for the job.

“I have to clarify that this appointment has nothing to do with politics. I told the Puerto Rican people that I am not a traditional politician. And since I’m not a traditional politician, I don’t make those decisions either,” Vázquez told reporters at a news conference in La Fortaleza. “I did it by evaluating the merits, what the law establishes as the requirements [to appoint] a comptroller of Puerto Rico, the experience, the career in public service that Mr. Osvaldo Soto García has.”

The governor noted that Soto García -- who is not a certified public accountant -- has a bachelor’s degree in business sciences and marketing from the University of Phoenix in Puerto Rico, and graduated from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico Law School.

Prior to occupying the position of Public Affairs secretary at La Fortaleza since January, he was the secretary of public affairs for the island Senate. Soto García has also served as a federal funds consultant for various regional consortia and municipalities, in charge of the implementation and formulation of public policies and federal laws.

In addition, both in public service and in the private sector, Soto García has highlighted his administrative management skills, having been in charge of projects with budgets of more than $4 million and more than 60 employees. He has also implemented measures that have resulted in over $35 million in federal funds, with excellent performance results in the execution and management of federal and state funds, according to La Fortaleza.

The Commonwealth Comptroller’s Office, however, is the office in charge of auditing the operations of agencies to detect fraud and ensure public funds are used adequately. The governor noted that the Comptroller’s Office has comptrollers who do an excellent job and are not certified public accountants.

The Certified Public Accountants (CPA) Association issued a statement asking the governor to appoint a CPA to the job as has been done in the past.

“Since 1978, with the exception of a two-year intermission, the comptroller’s position has been occupied by a certified public accountant because his academic experience, professional education, experience and qualifications are ideal if not necessary for the job,” the Association said.

Soto García said the job does not call for a person to have a background as a certified public accountant.

“As the governor has said, I have experience managing state and public funds. … The work will speak for itself,” he said.

Asked about why she did not evaluate a person with more traditional experience for the post, Vázquez said Soto García’s work will be backed up by an auditor.

“In evaluating officials I am very careful,” she said. And it does not mean that they have not been taken into consideration. When we talk about auditors, we are talking about people who are the complement of each agency. And in the case of Osvaldo Soto, all the auditors who are there [in the Comptroller’s Office] are the complement for that office to provide agile, efficient and transparent service to the Puerto Rican people.”

The governor noted that she sought the advice of the legislative leaders who will evaluate the appointment in the extraordinary session she convened for today.

Rep. Gabriel Rodríguez Aguilo objected to the nominee and instead supported current Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés for the job. The governor said she would rather have Parés remain as Treasury secretary.

“I must tell you, the Treasury secretary has all my respect and is an excellent and extraordinary civil servant,” Vázquez said. I therefore rather have him remain as Treasury secretary.”

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