• The San Juan Daily Star

Senator rips La Fortaleza for poor oversight of private operators

Sen. Ramón Ruiz Nieves

By The Star Staff

At a time when Puerto Rico’s piers are slated to be put under private management along with toll roads and power plants, a Popular Democratic Party senator charged that the administration of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia has shown serious incompetence in supervising private entities that are managing government services.

“In the public hearings that we have been carrying out on the operations of the Aerostar company, which manages the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, we have seen evidence of the poor control carried out by the agencies in charge of ensuring the adequate fulfillment of the contract granted to the privatizing entity,” Sen. Ramón Ruiz Nieves said. “In fact, the privatizing entity has not submitted compliance reports required by the privatization contract for several years, without major consequences on the part of the government. However, there have been multiple public complaints reported by the press about deficiencies in the operations and services that Aerostar provides in the airport facilities.”

He was referring to the company that for several years has managed the island’s largest airport in Carolina. On Tuesday, it was announced that the Public-Private Partnership Authority is slated to reach an agreement soon with a private operator to manage the piers.

The senator emphasized that a responsible and diligent government must vigorously monitor the private entities that were contracted to provide services to the people and demand that they comply with the contract and the required improvements or investments.

“This inspection must be frequent, methodical, and based on efficiency and productivity criteria to measure the effectiveness of the services provided by the privatizing entity,” he said.

The senator complained about LUMA Energy, the private operator of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s transmission and distribution system, which has not been able to resolve the problem of frequent blackouts.

“We have seen the absence of effective control by the government with the administration of the energy system by LUMA, which has demonstrated its inability to provide a better service than its predecessor, the Electric Power Authority,” said Ruiz Nieves, who chairs the Senate Government Committee. “We have seen how LUMA, with its constant incapacity, has not been able to provide adequate maintenance to the energy system, which has been evidenced in the multiple general blackouts that we have suffered, in the high operating costs of LUMA that have translated into an increase of almost double of the cost in the electricity bill.”

The Legislator stressed that instead of requiring strict compliance with the contract, what is seen is a government that is very accommodating of the privatizing entity, of which little is required regarding the proper execution of its duties and responsibilities with the service that it must provide to the people.

“Now the Pierluisi government has proposed that one way to mitigate the effects of restructuring the debt of the Highway and Transportation Authority (ACT) is to privatize the operations of several expressways in the country and allegedly reduce the cost of tolls on these roads,” he said. “The experience that the people have had with the privatization of PR-52 has been the opposite; there has been a constant increase in toll costs. If this experience is combined with the poor oversight that the government exercises over the privatizers, the ACT’s proposal to privatize more highways is going to be a very costly recipe for the citizen’s pocket.”

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