Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s administration officials unveiled Monday five reorganization plans under the New Government Act approved late last year, to streamline government processes.
“In the Plan for Puerto Rico, the governor pledged to create a more agile and efficient government and reduce the number of agencies from about 118 to close to 35,” Public Affairs and Public Policy Secretary Ramón Rosario said during a news conference at the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza.
“The five reorganization plans presented have an impact on 25 executive branch agencies and programs to achieve a less expensive government that provides better services,” Rosario said.
According to government projections, the five reorganizations would be saving more than $30 million during the first year and about $220 million in the first five years without laying off public employees.
The reorganization plans that will be proposed to the Legislature are:
Department of Economic Development and Commerce: It would incorporate the Office of Industrial Tax Exemption, the Energy Public Policy State Office, the Regional Center Corporation, and the Permits Management Office, which in turn assumes the responsibilities of issuing the permits from the Culebra Conservation and Development Authority.
The DDEC will also be the umbrella agency for Puerto Rico Trade and Export and the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.
Meanwhile, the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. and the Roosevelt Roads Redevelopment Authority will remain under the DDEC, with shared services. The Planning Board will be assigned to the DDEC, also with shared services.
The Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics will be integrated into the DDEC to add statistical functions currently done by the Puerto Rico Government Development Bank and the Puerto Rico Planning Board, which will eventually be spun off and privatized.
“The governor promised to give real independence to the Institute of Statistics and transfer it to the private sector to strengthen its transparency and credibility,” Rosario said.
With this plan, the government expects to save $ 7.8 million the first year and about $100 million in five years.
Department of Labor and Human Resources: An Auxiliary Labor Relations agency will be crated to address the cases now under the Public Service Appeals Commission, the Board of Labor Relations and the Committee on Research, Processing and Appeals, consolidating these agencies under the Labor Department.
In addition, some programs of the Education Department’s Auxiliary Secretary of Training and Job Promotion that are similar to existing vocational offerings will be transferred to the new agency.
With this plan, savings of $2.2 million are estimated in the first year and about $12 million over a five-year period.
Public Service Regulatory Board: This plan proposes creating a board that will group the Telecommunications Regulatory Board, the Public Service Commission, the Energy Commission, Energy Management Administration and the Independent Bureau of Consumer Protection.
This Board will be divided into three commissions — telecommunications, transportation and energy — that will be led by a commissioner each.
Savings are estimated at $14.5 million in the first year and about $74 million over five years.
Model Forest (“Bosque Modelo”): The duties of the Bosque Modelo office will be transferred and outsourced to the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and to the Model Forest Trust. With this measure, the duty to enforce the public policy of the Model Forest is transferred to the DNER, and fulfills the mandate of Law 182-2014 that creates a Model Forest Trust.
With this plan, the estimated savings are $ 300,000 the first year and about $1.5 million in five years.
Puerto Rico Education Board: This agency groups in the Department of Education the functions, services and powers assigned to the Education Council, which will cease to exist.
Rosario explained that with this proposal “Puerto Rico adopts the model of 47 states that do not require private education institutions to have state licensing and accreditation of private entities is promoted, as in most jurisdictions in the United States and other parts of the world. However, these institutions will be required to be registered in the Department of Education.”
Moreover, this plan transfers the duties of the Education Council of guarding academic records held by private education institutions to Department of Education.
Savings foreseen with this plan are estimated at $8 million the first year, and more than $40 million over five years.
According to the New Government Act, the five reorganization plans will be submitted to the House and Senate, which will approve or reject them within a 30-day period with the possibility of a 15-day extension. If they are neither expressly approved or rejected in those 45 days, the plans will be deemed adopted.
“These plans, like the Department of Public Safety, will allow us to have a more agile and efficient government to provide better services to our citizens, while we’re accountable to the fiscal situation that we inherited and whose deficit amounted to $7.6 billion,” Rosario said.