Sen. Seilhamer: The debt will be audited
SAN JUAN CAPITOL – The Senate approved a resolution presented today by the vice president of the chamber, Larry Seilhamer, to request the Comptroller General of the United States to audit the public debt of Puerto Rico, based on what is established in section 411 of the federal Promesa law. Senators from the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Eduardo Bhatia, José Luis Dalmau Santiago, Rossana López, Miguel Pereira and Cirilo Tirado opposed the measure. Independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot and Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Juan Dalmau Ramírez also voted against the measure.
After two days of demonstrations around the island’s Capitol against the elimination of the Public Credit Audit Commission, the New Progressive Party (NPP) legislator assured that the debt would be audited, although not through the mechanism the protesters demand.
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed Wednesday—following a two-day legislative process—Senate Bill 428, which eliminates the commission that audits the debt.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 17 requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to comply with section 411 of Promesa, which directs that office to conduct a public debt report for each territory at the latest one year after the approval of the federal law., which was enacted June 30, 2016.
The report, which must be submitted every two years thereafter, will include the historical levels and future projections of the debt, as well as the collections of the territory and the effects of the laws on indebtedness.
“I don’t have the slightest doubt that the debt is going to be audited. It won’t even be a decision by the Popular Democratic Party [PDP], the Puerto Rican Independence Party [PIP] or the NPP. That is the determination, the decision by what Senator [Juan] Dalmau calls the colonial power. It’s diaphanously established in Promesa,” Seilhamer said during an initial turn in Wednesday’s session.
However, for those who objected the measure, the GAO report will not be an audit like the one presented by the Audit Commission for Public Credit, but a report that would not go into details of how the debt was issued.
“Section 411 says that a report will be made on how debt is being raised or lowered. That is not an audit … The federal audit mandate does not appear in the [Promesa] law. It’s the interpretation that Seilhamer gives it,” Bhatia claimed.
Seilhamer then said that when Promesa was approved, that section was included as an amendment requested by U.S. Reps. José Serrano and Nydia Velázquez, and the “congressional intent” was to audit the debt. “To say that there is no federal mandate to audit the debt is false,” said the Senate vice president.
The measure now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.