The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico on Saturday approved Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s request to extend the deadline in which to present the administration’s fiscal plan to Feb. 28.
The Oversight Board will work to consider its certification by no later than March 15. The federally appointed body also agreed to extend to May 1st the stay on litigation against the government of Puerto Rico provided for under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA.)
The Oversight Board approved the extensions unanimously during its fourth public meeting on Saturday — the second held in Puerto Rico — which was open to the general public and was attended by some 100 people.
“The Board understood that it was prudent and reasonable to extend both deadlines, subject to certain conditions we had discussed with the governor with which he agreed. Those conditions included the commitment to look for a ‘once and done’ solution to achieve fiscal balance without additional borrowing, the implementation of a liquidity plan including a protocol for priority of payments, a regular cash flow forecasting report and the establishment of a joint working arrangement, information sharing protocol and work plan, among others,” said Oversight Board Chairman José Carrión.
During the meeting, the Board presented the targets, objectives and fiscal guidelines that should be contained in the fiscal plan to be submitted by the government of Puerto Rico, as outlined in the letter to that effect that the Board had sent Rosselló on Jan. 18, emphasizing the importance that the fiscal plan comply with those parameters in order to be certified by the Board.
“We understand that the new administration shares with the Board the sense of urgency to collaborate in an expedited and substantial manner in the effort to implement the necessary structural reforms, manage its long-term obligations and restore economic growth and opportunities to the people of Puerto Rico,” Carrión said.
“And the Board understood that those objectives will be better served if the governor and his team were allowed a few additional days to elaborate a fiscal plan that complies with PROMESA so that the Board may certify it on or before March 15,” Carrión added.
Interim executive director named
During the meeting, the Oversight Board announced the appointment of CPA and lawyer Ramón Ruiz-Comas as interim executive director.
“The Oversight Board is well advanced in its very rigorous search, evaluation and selection process for the best available talent,” Carrión said.
“However, the Board has an urgency to set forth a series of indispensable operational and administration functions necessary to conduct the considerable workload that the members have been carrying on up to now without the help of operational and administrative support,” he added.
Ruiz-Comas, who headed the operations of insurer Triple-S in Puerto Rico until last year, came out of retirement “to help us set up that framework and direct the Board’s day-to-day operations until we formalize the appointment of an executive director,” Carrión said.
Ruiz-Comas’s responsibilities will include setting up Board offices in Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. , hire the necessary administrative personnel to support the Board’s operations, make recommendations regarding employee compensation and the Board’s operational policies and procedures, prepare a budget for the next 12 months and organize the Board’s financial and accounting processes, help manage and coordinate the work of the Board’s consultants, serve as liaison with the Government of Puerto Rico under the direction of the Board’s chairman, serve as spokesperson as may be required and assist the Board in the discussion, negotiation and certification of the government’s fiscal plan, among others.
Likewise, the Oversight Board announced the selection of Citigroup Capital Markets as Financial Consultant. The Board announced also that it will soon select an accounting firm to evaluate the fiscal bridge between the government’s last available audited financial statements of fiscal year 2014 and the present.
The Oversight Board also announced Saturday the procedures it will follow to make public all contracts entered into or to be entered into in the future, as well as the financial information of Board members, in accordance with section 109 of PROMESA.
Furthermore, the Board approved a Code of Ethics and an amendment to its bylaws to require the retention of an ethics expert to assist the Board in complying with all ethics and conflicts rules.
“As we have reiterated several times, transparency and the strict adherence to all ethical requirements and demands of good public administration are guiding principles of this Oversight Board, so we are very proud to have adopted these procedures and this Code of Ethics,” said Carrión.
During the meeting, Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority Executive Director Gerardo Portela and other government officials and advisers made presentations on the government’s current liquidity situation and the fiscal bridge between the last available audited financial statements of fiscal year 2014, and the fiscal plan’s baseline.