Designated Health Secretary to Meet with Ethics Director
Designated Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez Mercado requested a meeting this week with the director of the Government Ethics Office (OEG by its Spanish acronym), Zulma Rosario, to receive guidance on how to prevent conflicts of interest while continuing his private practice and working as a public official.
Jennifer Rodríguez Ayala, Rosario’s executive adviser, confirmed to Caribbean Business that the meeting will take place during the following weeks.
The OEG spokeswoman explained to this newspaper that Rodríguez Mercado didn’t need a dispensation or an opinion from the agency to decide if he will continue his private practice of neurosurgery while laboring as Health secretary, since his post hasn’t been confirmed yet.
“Doctor Rafael Rodríguez didn’t need to request counselorship from the office prior to his designation as Health secretary. However, I can let you know in advance that he requested a meeting with the [OEG] executive director, Zulma Rosario, to receive guidance on what the Law of Government Ethics establishes and to prevent and conflict in his functions. That meeting will be held soon,” affirmed Rodríguez Ayala via written declarations.
She added that “after he presents his situation, the OEG will evaluate every element brought forth to our consideration and guide Doctor Rodríguez about what he must do and must not do in his role as Health secretary.”
Jenniffer González Defends Rodríguez Mercado
For her part, Resident Commissioner-elect Jenniffer González defended the designation of Rodríguez Mercado and denied that in the past she had opposed exiting Health Secretary Ana Ríus from continuing her private practice of anesthesiology while she performed public functions.
“What I did [in 2013] was send a communication to the OEG to request if Secretary Ríus had a dispensation to continue her [private] practice […] My complaint at the time was: I refer Dr. Ríus to Ethics. [If Ríus continued her private practice] I don’t see why [Rodríguez Mercado] can’t,” declared González in an interview with Caribbean Business.
The exiting representative claimed that even Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, who designated Ríus as Health secretary, criticized in the past that former governor Luis Fortuño’s designated official for the post, Iván González Cancel, continued his private practice of cardiology.
“The current governor had said that was a conflict of interest. In the same way that was criticized in the past, you have to press with the same stick. The Ethics director said that, in effect, there was a dispensation [for Ríus]. Rodríguez Mercado must request a dispensation, which I don’t think will be denied because it was approved for Dr. Ríus,” she added.