Fiscal board approves $3 million reapportionment for Puerto Rico Forensic Sciences Bureau
Gov’s rep to board says it took panel 3 months to approve funds
SAN JUAN – The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico said Thursday that it approved the request for a $3 million reapportionment of funds submitted by the Forensic Sciences Bureau (FSB).
The funds will help to clear the backlog in the analysis of rape kits and other urgently needed services provided by the Department of Public Safety’s bureau.
The reapportionment request, “which was resubmitted by the FSB to the Oversight Board just today, will be used for outsourcing the purchase and servicing of rape kits,” the panel said in its release. “The FSB initially submitted the reapportionment request on January 31st, 2019. Since then, the Oversight Board has repeatedly requested the FSB to submit detailed information regarding the source of funds to be used for these expenses. Finally today, the agency complied with the information request and the Oversight Board immediately approved the reapportionment of funds.”
The board’s executive director, Natalie Jaresko, said the panel’s “prompt response to the request of the FSB stems from detailed and clear work on behalf of the agency with respect to justifying additional expenses and identifying the origin of funds.”
Jaresko added that the board was “aware of the challenges facing the FSB and other agencies, as well as the importance of the services they offer. This is why we urge other government agencies to be punctual and detailed in their requests for reapportionments or additional funds.”
In a statement issued following the board’s announcement, Christian Sobrino Vega, the governor’s non-voting representative to the fiscal board, said the board was contradicting itself, writing that “the Board alleges that the petition was delivered today but that the information necessary to approve the request was pending since January.”
He said the “Board has taken three months to approve a budgetary reallocation that would have taken barely one day for the elected government to do,” and that “government officials have been trying to obtain approval from the Board to reallocate funds for the Bureau” since January.
“What was announced today should not be taken as a sign of success by the Board, but as clear and palpable evidence of the failed budgetary process that the Board has imposed on the Government of Puerto Rico. It is time for the Board to carefully and sensibly evaluate its processes and intervention in government operations.”
The board’s release added that the reapportionment is in addition to the already requested and approved $1.6 million for payroll and $3.2 million in capital expenses.
The aftermath of Hurricane Maria revealed serious administrative and operational issues at the bureau, including a lack of key personnel such as pathologists, radiologists and dentists, as well as proper housing for bodies, resulting in public outcry over the matter.