Despite having been dismantled, commission to audit Puerto Rico debt
SAN JUAN – The Frente Ciudadano por la Auditoría de la Deuda, a group that is pushing for Puerto Rico’s debt to be audited, announced Friday that it will join a University of Puerto Rico (UPR) student protest to demand that the public debt be investigated and to defend public education. The “family-oriented, artistic” and educational event will take place Sunday, April 23. The demonstration is slated to begin at Luis Muñoz Rivera Park at 9 a.m. and end at the Capitol.
The group also said that the Puerto Rico Commission for the Comprehensive Audit of the Public Credit—eliminated this week by a law signed by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló—would still work on auditing Puerto Rico’s $71 billion debt.
Frente Ciudadano spokeswoman Eva Prados told Caribbean Business that six of the commission’s eight members have shown interest in going ahead with the audit, possibly through a citizen group that could raise funds to pay for the process.
Prados said that starting next week meetings will be held to determine how to raise at least the $100,000 requested by U.S.-based accounting firm Macias, Gini & O’Connell to audit the last four debt issuances. More money would be required to evaluate other issuances.
“The audit will go ahead, which means we are going to look for a way to pay for the job. The governor said he would be willing to provide information to any citizen committee, so we hope he does. This is not new. In many countries—in Argentina, in Brazil—a citizens’ audit has been done due to the lack of trust in having the government audit itself,” Prados explained.
She said the audit would now be handled solely by commission members representing the public interest while government-appointed members would be excluded.
“Of course [that’s legal]. It’s a group of citizens who are looking into the issuances’ legality. The people would be providing the necessary money,” said Prados, who did not rule out creating a trust that would administer the funds raised so the process is transparent.
The announcement comes after a series of protests this week demanding the audit and the commission’s permanence. Despite the protests—some resulting in confrontations between the demonstrators and the police—the Legislature approved the bill that eliminated the commission without allowing the public to have access to a hearing.
The Rosselló administration claims that the audit will be conducted by other entities, such as the comptroller general of the United States.