Puerto Rico government repeals commission to audit debt
SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced Wednesday he has signed into law a bill that repeals a commission created in 2015 and tasked with auditing the commonwealth’s public debt.
“I’m not opposed to auditing the debt, but it has to be done in the relevant forum,” said the governor, who stressed any illegality question must be addressed in a court and not in a commission.
“Investing $2 million in a process that has failed in other jurisdictions, which apparently has other purposes and is not the platform to clear out this issue, is not compatible with our administration,” Rosselló continued when asked about the now repealed Puerto Rico Commission for the Comprehensive Audit of Public Credit.
The legislative process to approve the bill that eliminated the commission only took two days, and follows a local court ruling that ordered the reinstatement of several members that were dismissed earlier this year by the new government.
Moreover, the governor argued that “declaring a debt illegal does not mean it doesn’t have to be paid,” while adding that if consensual agreements are struck with creditors the audit process would be “inconsequent.”
“If there is a renegotiation on good terms, the debt audit would be inconsequent. If there is not, and a Title III [of Promesa] is followed, it will reach the courts where in essence issues” related to illegal debt issuances will be discussed, Rosselló added.
However, he said that his administration will be “transparent” and that it will facilitate “the auditing and evaluation of whatever happened with the debt.” Nevertheless, the governor emphasized it is an unnecessary expense to finance the now-repealed commission, which since its inception in 2015 and across two administrations, has not had the support of La Fortaleza.
Meanwhile, Rosselló criticized the incidents that occurred Tuesday at the Legislature during a protest against the elimination of the commission and in favor of a debt audit. He regretted that 21 law enforcement officers were assaulted “with stones, batteries and paint” by some of the protesters.
“It is painful to see when 21 law enforcement officials […] had to endure stones, batteries and paint to maintain order and law,” said Rosselló on Tuesday’s protests where there was also pepper spray and shoving at various instances between police and participants.