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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Peñuelas must return Head Start, Early Head Start funds due to mismanagement

Roberto Carlos Pagán, head of the Children’s Care and Comprehensive Development Administration

By John McPhaul

The Children’s Care and Comprehensive Development Administration (ACUDEN by its Spanish acronym), an agency attached to the Family Department that is in charge of administering the delegated funds of the Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) programs, notified the municipality of Peñuelas that it will not be able to continue administering the HS and EHS programs due to deficiencies in the management of federal funds.

“We have been extremely responsible and strict with the management and good use of the funds received to avoid indications that put them at risk of losing them or that they are diminished due to non-compliance with the Program,” ACUDEN Administrator Roberto Carlos Pagán said in a written statement. “We will continue to strive so that we are the best jurisdiction in the use of funds and above all, that we can have continuity of the federal subsidy of funds, not only for the population that it serves, but also for the recipient and the rest of the sub-recipient agencies.”

The municipality was notified of the breaches on May 3, 2021 and, with input from ACUDEN, an intervention plan with corrective actions was established to achieve full compliance with the programs. During this period, the agency assigned a fiscal controller and a programmatic controller, and provided direct technical assistance; however, 14 months later the indications were not corrected.

Pagán announced that on Monday, Aug. 1 an effective transition process will begin in order to guarantee the continuity of the provision of services to children who are currently served through the agency. Likewise, employees will make a contract transition to continue providing the services of the programs.

According to the investigation, during the intervention process, deficiencies were found in health and safety practices, contracts signed without proper documentation, lack of internal controls and lack of adequate procedures for working with the funds received. Investigators also found non-compliance with the required reports, in registration required by the program, in the corrective action plans and recurrence of findings.

Meanwhile, and as a consequence of the mismanagement of the funds of the HS and EHS programs, the Municipality of Peñuelas must return to the federal government $529,869.27 of the funds received that were misused. Specifically, the municipality must return $492,025.27 in Head Start funds and $37,844 from recovery funds, within a period of 30 calendar days.

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