• The San Juan Daily Star

UPR personnel receive Yule bonuses despite procedural failings

By John McPhaul

University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Governing Board President Dr. Mayda Velasco announced that the 9,661 employees of UPR were to receive the Christmas bonus on Tuesday.

The funds come from current and projected savings, Velasco said, since the 2021 holiday bonus was not originally identified in the certified budget as had happened in previous years.

“For several consecutive years, funds for this purpose have not been approved in the budget,” she said in a written statement. “However, for one more year, the Finance Committee has been given the task of conducting a rigorous analysis to identify savings that allow us to issue the payment for all our employees. We know how important this contribution is to the family budget at this time and efforts were made to identify this item while trying to fully comply with other commitments.”

Christmas bonus payments for the entire UPR staff amount to $6.2 million.

“It is a significant amount and I appreciate the Committee’s efforts to manage the identification of the funds in a responsible manner, since originally the Central Administration had proposed to issue the payment of cash funds,” Velasco said. “That was an inappropriate move. Managing the fragile fiscal situation of the institution is complex. Without a doubt we want to treat well and recognize the work of our human capital, but this must be done with great responsibility and rigor in managing finances.”

The board president emphasized that she recognizes that UPR continues to face a precarious fiscal and financial situation, but pointed out that the university has already met 80% of the goals of the certified fiscal plan.

In addition, she said, UPR’s challenges continue to be many and on multiple fronts, so “it is critical that the figure in charge of the administration has a comprehensive understanding of the intelligent management of funds and the appropriate processes for managing finances.”

“There is a lot of pending fiscal work at the university and we need to be emphatic that the administration understands this so that we can meet the needs and transformation goals of the university in the coming years,” Velasco said.

However, in a letter dated Dec. 7, Financial Oversight and Management Board Executive Director Natalie Jaresko said the oversight board was approving the Christmas bonuses for UPR employees despite the fact that the UPR failed to follow proper procedure for requesting them.

Jaresko said Christmas bonus requests were late because no one from UPR submitted the reprogramming request to the board and it did not consent to such a reprogramming, as required under section 204(c) of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA).

“Accordingly, UPR and the officers and employees who carried out the reprogramming did so in violation of PROMESA,” Jaresko said. “Albeit, even with the violation, the Oversight Board authorizes UPR’s request to allocate $6.2 million to fund the payment of the Christmas Bonus expense for FY22 as presented in Appendix A. However, we must remind you that UPR must obtain Oversight Board review and approval prior to any reprogramming of funds within the UPR’s Certified Budget, pursuant to section 204(c) of PROMESA.”

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