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Comptroller: San Juan spent $1.4M on tablets in 2020, with 23% still undistributed

In 2020, the Municipality of San Juan invested $1,435,904 to purchase 2,126 electronic tablets — along with their covers, keyboards and a three-year warranty — for Head Start and Early Head Start students, but as of July 6, 2022, about 485 of those tablets, valued at $304,672, had not been distributed, according to the Puerto Rico Comptroller’s Office.

The financial oversight office issued a qualified opinion — which is typically done when a violation is significant but not widespread — regarding the matter of the municipality’s investment. 

During an inspection by auditors at the San Juan Municipal Tower, it was noted that the tablets were kept in good condition; however, the investment “had not yielded the expected usefulness.” If the tablets are not distributed and used by October, the municipality would lose the ability to make any warranty claims if any of the units did not work properly.

The auditors found that 185 tablets, valued at $114,998, which were classified as “broken and water-damaged,” were still stored in the municipal building. Of these, 111 had been referred for evaluation, but after 10 months, no action regarding the warranty had been taken, shortening the lifespan of the equipment.

The comptroller’s report also states that 13% of the tablets already being used at Head Start centers were defective and had not been referred for repair under warranty. The issue is attributed to a lack of specific guidelines in the municipal regulation for referring defective equipment.

“Unfortunately, communication during the COVID-19 period was affected due to the constant changes of available personnel. However, instructions were issued for all staff to comply,” the report cites an unspecified San Juan mayor as saying.

The Comptroller’s Office says in its report that after reviewing the provided evidence and comments from Mayor Miguel Romero and former Mayor Carmen Yulín Soto, who responded to the office in March, recommendations were made to Romero and the director of the Office of Management and Budget to ensure compliance with a “Corrective Action Plan” to distribute and care for the tablets.

The recommendations focus on improving the management and distribution of resources and the need for strict controls, including to “make sure that the director of SEMI [Spanish acronym for Integrated Municipal Education System] and of Municipal Finances comply with the regulatory provisions applicable to the control processes over property, and avoid the repetition” of certain situations, such as not properly identifying equipment and keeping property records up to date.

The report covers the period from Oct. 2, 2020, to Oct. 31, 2022, and is available at www.ocpr.gov.pr.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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