Governor says COVID-19 aid fraud won’t be tolerated
If not used for Covid-19 related expenses, funds will be clawed-back, Fiscal agency chief warns
SAN JUAN – Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced said Thursday that recipients of federal COVID-19 funds disbursed to the public and private sectors will be heavily regulated.
“Fraud and pillage of any of these funds is not going to be allowed. Whoever intends to enter a system with incorrect, fraudulent information to cheat and access these funds, will receive the consequences. So they better not even try,” the governor said at a press conference.
For his part, the director of the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (Aafaf by its Spanish acronym), Omar Marrero, said business people will have to submit evidence of the use of the funds.
“We are putting the burden on recipients to acknowledge the terms and conditions of this law, and that they report monthly (the use of funds). Not only that, a 90-day reconciliation is going to be done so that they tell me where they are, what they used the funds for, and if not, I can claw them back…for other purposes, so that when December arrives, I can press a button and all that audit is revealed,” said Marrero, adding that funds that are not used for the requested purpose will have to be returned.
He explained that, although the aid is granted at the state level, it will be financed with federal funds; therefore, business people who received some type of federal aid for similar purposes do not qualify.
“If you have already applied for or already have a federal fund under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act or under any other program, you cannot request them. And that is clear in the legal provisions of the CARES Act,” Marrero said.
Their remarks were given at a press conference in which they presented the plan for the use of the $2.2 billion assigned to Puerto Rico as part of the CARES Act.