Senate focusing on areas to create PPPs in Police, Health and Treasury departments
SAN JUAN – Police Superintendent Michelle Hernández de Fraley said Tuesday that public-private partnerships (PPPs) could be created within the public agency—in the dining halls in operation there, as well as in the warehouse area or to purchase uniforms and safety equipment.
In a public hearing in which the designation of the Police superintendent was being discussed—as were those of Treasury Secretary-designate Raúl Maldonado Gautier, Health Secretary-designate Rafael Rodríguez Mercado and Secretary of State-designate Luis Rivera Marín—Senate Vice President Larry Seilhamer focused his line of questions on the areas in which PPPs could be created within the different agencies.
Seilhamer will chair the Legislature’s Joint Commission for Public-Private Partnerships, which is why he has an interest in the topic. The Senate approved its first bill Monday—on the current session’s first day—intended to amend the PPP Act to include more participatory elements as specified in the Plan for Puerto Rico, which includes PPPs in various government areas. Senate Bill 2 could be turned into law Wednesday, which evinces Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s priority in that regard.
In the case of the local Treasury Department, Maldonado Gautier said a PPP could be implemented in the technological aspect so systems are updated without the government having to make a multimillion-dollar investment at a time when it lacks liquidity. This could even extend to the technology system used by municipalities, which would be divided into regions, he added.
“What has been done in other jurisdictions is that the private sector takes care of that part [making sure that the technology system is fully updated], that there would be different ways of compensating it. The interesting thing is that the government does not make a multimillion-dollar investment at the time, but pays little by little according to how many users are entering the system; groups of municipalities with particular interests would be made for them to manage that area,” the Treasury secretary-designate said while speaking to journalists during a break in the hearing.
For his part, the Health secretary-designate replied to questions from Sen. Eric Correa by saying that the problems at the Vieques emergency room as well as the closed Diagnosis and Treatment Center (CDT by its Spanish initials) could be solved with a PPP. “Maybe the solution is to put a PPP there [in Vieques] and free the government from that responsibility,” Rodríguez Mercado said .
“I am pleased with the initial presentation and the credentials shown by the four nominees…. They bring ample experience in different jurisdictions that contribute to their performance. I am considering bringing these four appointments to the Senate floor next Thursday,” Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz said in an aside with reporters during the hearings.
Inspection will be a priority in the Treasury
As he has said in the past, the designated treasury secretary stated that he would focus on increasing collections of the sales and use tax (IVU by its Spanish acronym), a tax that he could reduce only if tax collection goals are met and if the island’s economic situation improves.
Although several senators expressed concern over the business seizures that occurred during the past four-year period, Maldonado Gautier said that sanctions would only be taken against businesses that do not comply with the law.