Stressing that the COVID-10 pandemic has put the spotlight on the importance of the manufacture of medicines, products and medical devices to guarantee the health of citizens, the Alliance for the Economic Development of Puerto Rico launched a campaign to support the return of pharmaceutical and health-related products to the United States.
The private sector organization is promoting the collection of endorsements through the change.org platform under the slogan “Bring Manufacturing Back.” The petition that asks people to support the message hopes to get thousands of signatures that will be sent to U.S. Congress.
“We know this has great support in Puerto Rico. The return of this manufacturing to American soil not only guarantees national security, it also guarantees our peers on the mainland the continuity of the supply of health-related products that come from a U.S. territory,” the organization’s spokesperson Rodrigo Masses said.
The campaign launch is coupled with questions targeting the government’s procurement process and the lack of transparency associated with it, which the group said “seriously hurt” initiatives like the one it is sponsoring.
The Alliance was referring to the several agreements the government entered into to buy medical products, including rapid test kits to detect the COVID-19 virus for some $40 million. Several companies, namely 313 LLC and Apex General Contractors received hefty contracts that the government canceled after the shipment failed to arrive on time.
“The level of difficulty that entrepreneurs face so that the Treasury Department pays us a penny and what taxpayers go through to get their tax refunds contrasts greatly with the ease with which an entrepreneur with no experience or any specialty in the subject of health, manages to be awarded a project like that,” said Masses.
The Alliance is urging the government to amend Executive Order 2020-27, which exempts the executive branch from the requirements of government contracting processes to enable and accelerate Puerto Rico’s recovery. The group has asked for the adoption of a new executive order with “adequate controls to guarantee transparency in the procurement process.”
Leaving the order as-is is “like giving the green light to corruption, it’s inviting corruption to invade Puerto Rico,” said Masses, a former Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association president.
Masses said two essential requirements are that concerned federal and state entities validate the contracts, and that only bona-fide companies, with economic solvency and proven experience in the field of the product or service to be procured, are taken into consideration in the processes.