Stuck in the ’70s, the General Services Administration tries to achieve more in purchasing area

By The Star Staff

The General Services Administration (ASG by its Spanish initials) was created in 1971 to acquire non-professional goods and services for the Puerto Rico government, but over the years it has become ineffective because it has not incorporated technological advances into its purchasing processes.

ASG Administrator Karla Mercado, however, touted the achievements of the past four years in the purchasing area.

“In order to improve these services and achieve savings in purchases for the government of Puerto Rico, our administration has started to transform the mission and vision of the ASG by adopting a new model for the purchase of goods, works and services,” Mercado said. “This model is framed by the principles of transparency, uniformity and healthy competition.”

Among her achievements, Mercado cited the acquisition of new technological equipment for ASG employees and recording all bids with the goal of making them public.

She cited as goals to be completed the need to purchase a computer system that can register all purchase transactions and statistical information in real time. She also said the ASG needs to implement a Single Registry for Services and renew the Bidders Single Registry.

Meanwhile, the Public Buildings Authority (PBA), which is in bankruptcy court, since 2019 has not been getting the estimated $135 million in annual revenues to fund operations and buy equipment. The PBA has an outstanding bond debt of $4 billion.

PBA Director Melitza López said the public corporation does not receive direct allocations from the general fund because its main source of income consists of the rental fees stipulated in contracts with its tenants.

The PBA owns 673 facilities throughout Puerto Rico, including 425 public schools. Lease fees are divided to pay the debt service on bonds used to finance projects, operational expenses, buying equipment and improvements.

The PBA receives about $400 million in fees from the rental of its facilities, but most of the rent, or about $265 million, goes to debt service, which is currently billed to tenants only for accounting purposes but has not been paid to the PBA since 2016 due to the moratorium declared by former Gov. Alejandro García Padilla and the central government’s Title III bankruptcy process, which began in 2017 under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, the PBA’s transition statement reads.

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