Puerto Rico Gov ‘Will Respond Promptly’ to U.S. Senator’s Concerns
Grassley Presses for Explanations of Gov’t Contracts Amid Covid-19 Crisis, Among Other Reports
SAN JUAN — Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced said Tuesday that she will reply in a timely manner to a letter from Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley in which he questions the handling of the Covid-19 crisis on the island and other issues.
“We will answer Senator Grassley’s concerns without diverting our attention from the important work that thousands of American citizens are doing on the Island to combat and control the invisible threat that COVID-19 represents for the entire Nation,” Vázquez Garced said in a statement.
Grassley, who is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to the government of Puerto Rico, inquiring about what his office called “questionable contracts and potentially wasted relief money related to the fight against COVID-19 and other disasters” on the island.
“It appears that procurement and contracting in Puerto Rico often passes through a filter of political connections before resources intended for the people of Puerto Rico actually reach them and achieve the intended use, depriving the people of Puerto Rico the primacy that they deserve,” Grassley wrote.
He was referring to the purchase of rapid Covid-19 tests, as well as related issues including “the recent resignations of health officials, the decision to use contractors with no prior experience in medical supplies for COVID-19 tests, the potential political considerations made in that decision-making process, the lack of notifications to the Financial Management Oversight Board regarding these large purchase orders or contracts and the ‘discovery’ of $3-$4 million worth of medicine expiring under the control of the Puerto Rican health department.”
The governor said she “would have preferred” that Grassley “or any other person who intervened in the drafting of this letter, had the courtesy of communicating with our team or with our Resident Commissioner, Jenniffer González, before attacking the people of Puerto Rico for situations that are replicated in other jurisdictions of the United States or foreign governments.”
The governor said the letter “represents another opportunity to demonstrate” that Puerto Rico has not mismanaged funds.
“Notwithstanding, by providing a response to the narrative and the tone of his letter, the Senator presents us with a great opportunity to showcase the leadership of the Island and provide information to the true friends of Puerto Rico in Washington. I believe that together we can demonstrate that we are an example of leadership both in terms of the outstanding way in which we have handled this emergency and the way in which we will join President Donald J. Trump’s initiative for the orderly reopening of the Nation,” Vázquez Garced said.
Meanwhile, the president of the island’s minority Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Aníbal José Torres, said Grassley’s letter constitutes an indictment of the New Progressive Party (NPP) government “and warns that the relief aid for this new tragedy that humanity is living is at risk,” adding, “We demand that the governor make public her answer to each of the 13 questions….”
In his own statement in reaction, the PDP’s candidate for resident commissioner, former Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, said the senator’s letter “is much more than an indictment of the governor. In fact, it amounts to a full challenge of the present government since it came into force with Ricardo Rosselló until the present of Wanda Vázquez…. It is a letter that shows that in Congress they have been and continue to be very attentive to the way in which this government conducts public affairs.”
The full text of Grassley’s letter can be found here.