Saturday, September 25, 2021

New Puerto Rico Gov Looks to Make Changes to Contracting, Covid Measures

By on January 5, 2021

SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said Monday that he will request more restrictive measures when awarding government contracts, while anticipating changes in the way his administration will address the COVID-19 pandemic.

In what became his first formal press conference as governor and held at the La Fortaleza executive mansion, Pierluisi detailed some of the issues he discussed with members of his cabinet.

“I established a new public policy at the level of La Fortaleza; I do not want La Fortaleza to be a bottleneck. I do not want clogs here, drawers full of contracts or pending appointments in agencies for whatever reasons. I don’t know the reasons, that’s not the point. The point is that there is agility, a sense of urgency in all government agencies,” Pierluisi said at the end of the meeting with his cabinet.

“And of course, the Office of Management and Budget will be consulted in the hiring or appointment process, merely to verify that there are resources, that spending falls within the running budget,” he added.

Regarding the contracts, Pierluisi demanded that there be a process for requiring qualifications.

“For all types of professional services contracts, there is a process for requiring qualifications from firms that are interested in rendering those services, that after the firms that express interest, at least three firms are asked for proposals and finally a contract is granted and that it be known…what firm was contracted, who are its main owners, who are its officers,” the governor claimed, adding that transparency is the solution to avoiding problems.

Among the topics discussed at the meeting, as explained by the governor, it was learned that the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) requested, with a Jan. 29 deadline, the budget bill for fiscal year 2022.

At the same time, the governor anticipated that “there will be changes” in the new executive order to address the COVID-19 pandemic and that it would come into effect on Jan. 8.

“My intention is to issue a new executive order effective January 8 onwards. The specific changes I cannot announce because there is a consulting process in progress, not only with the scientific coalition, but also other impacted sectors. The important thing here is that if, with health as a priority, we make sure that the executive order establishes a system that makes sense, that is fair, that is reasonable, that does not seem arbitrary, that when it is a lockdown, it is justified that transmission and sources of infection have been identified,” Pierluisi said.

“I’m telling you now there are going to be changes. Now, I am going to be fair, it is not that the floodgates will be opened overnight. It’s not going to be like that,” he added.

Pierluisi said he does not necessarily agree with the curfew, but that does not mean that he will eliminate it.

“If it were up to me, I’m going to say it, this matter of having a curfew, this threatens individual freedoms, this is justified when you are in a state of war. If I keep it, it is not because I want to, because the virus is with us 24 hours [a day]. I want the people to have freedom of mobility. The curfew will be modified,” the governor said.

The governor’s remarks come about at a time when several countries have begun to again decree stay-at-home orders for the entire population as a measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

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