Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Puerto Rico Elections Comptroller publishes audit findings

By on April 1, 2019

(Screen shot of www.twitter.com/OCEPR)

Parties, candidates fined or must pay tens of thousands of dollars

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s Office of the Elections Comptroller, known as OCE by its Spanish initials, announced its audit of the political committees that participated in the island’s 2016 elections, which reveal that the parties and gubernatorial candidates spent a combined $18.1 million in public and private funds for their campaigns. Of these, $2.1 million in transactions was not reported to the office, which issued fines and required that $107,530.22 be returned.

As part of the process, in which 652 committees were examined “to determine whether the financial, administrative and operational activities were carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Puerto Rico Political Campaign Financing Oversight Act and the applicable law,” those audited “were given the opportunity to meet with the auditors, to clarify doubts, answer and correct findings, as established by Act 222-2011,” Comptroller Walter Vélez said, adding that “the charges and findings that prevailed in the audit reports were accepted by the political parties and the candidates for governor.”

Regarding the parties, the New Progressive Party (NPP) was found to not have reported $1.1 million in transactions and did not “properly identify $41,000 in donations. Both findings were clarified, corrected and rectified in the corresponding income and expense reports. The sanction imposed for fines and refunds of money totaled $8,881.48,” according to the OCE.

In its campaign, the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) “failed to report $467,915.91 in transactions and did not file 34 fundraising activity reports on time, which were corrected during the audit process. In addition, the improper use of the electoral fund was detected. The penalty imposed on the PDP for fines and reimbursement of money amounted to $28,749.01,” according to the comptroller’s office.

Meanwhile, the Puerto Rican Independence Party was fined $200 “for cash payments in excess of the limit, a matter that is “under reconsideration” before the OCE, it said.

For its part, the Workers’ Party “amended its reports to include $223,738.31 in transactions that had not been reported.”

The comptroller also announced that the publication of the 652 audit reports for the last elections cycle, which identified more than “$5 million in unreported transactions, $951,744.91 in income not deposited and $452,112.66 in cash payments in excess of the limit established by law, among other irregularities found,” will be published in May.

The reports published Sunday and the ones expected to be released next month, include more than $400,000 in fines and funds that must be paid back for infractions to Act 222-2011 and OCE regulations.

The report on the then-gubernatorial candidate of the NPP, now-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, found donation reports “not filed, expenses and accounts payable not reported and deficiencies in internal controls,” which the OCE said were “clarified, corrected or rectified and did not entail penalties.”

Rossellós campaign reported $51,166 in anonymous donations, or 2% of the income received.

The report for PDP gubernatorial candidate David Bernier included such findings as “income not deposited in the campaign account, cash payments over the allowed limit, and deficiencies in internal controls.” In addition, $337,069 in transactions was “not reported in a timely manner.”

The report establishes that the David Bernier Committee, “through a payment plan agreement, must return money for “excess donations” and “duplicate payments.” His campaign was ordered to pay $66,864.73 in fines and required payments. The committee reported $531,679 in anonymous donations, or 17% of the total.

Puerto Rican Independence Party candidate María de Lourdes Santiago’s report also references unreported spending and internal control deficiencies.

“However, all preliminary findings identified were clarified, corrected or rectified, thus no sanctions were imposed. This committee registered an anonymous donation for $200.00,” according to the OCE.

In the case of the Working People’s Party candidate, Rafael Bernabe, the report presents a “partial finding due to deficiencies in internal controls,” which did not entail fines. His committee reported $2,525 in anonymous donations.

Meanwhile, the treasurers of the Alexandra Lúgaro Aponte and Manuel Cidre Miranda committees were imposed an administrative fine of $100 each for “not retaining documents required by law.” The independent candidates did not report anonymous donations, the OCE said.

“The treasurer of the committee of the primary candidate for governor, Pedro Pierluisi, was fined $835.00, related to cash payments over the limit established in the law and deficiencies in internal controls, and the return of $2,000. This committee reported 7% ($114,693) of its income in anonymous donations,” the release reads.

“The report corresponding to the nominee for governor by direct nomination Raúl López Vergé had no findings or deficiencies,” the office added.

The audit reports are available on OCE’s site, here.

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