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P.R. Institute of Statistics asks court to resolve Board composition dispute

The Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics filed a motion at the San Juan Superior Court reiterating its request for declaratory judgment and injunction requested following the legal controversy that arose last summer, related to the composition of its Board, which has not yet been resolved.

The request was filed as a prelude to an argumentative hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 27, so the parties’ lawyers argue their respective motions and evaluate the possibility of resolving the case with statements that have been submitted.

The legal recourse exposed how the lack of a Board of Directors represents “a real and serious damage” to the implementation of the Institute’s Organic Law (Act 209-2003), particularly related to the control functions and statistical products, as well as deciding on disputes over those not in compliance with orders requesting information issued by the executive director.

“Six months have passed since the start of this litigation, and the Institute, as well as in some cases among the general public in Puerto Rico, the United States and around the world have begun to see the effects,” the Institute stated in its motion, which lists the harm the agency has suffered in the absence of a Board of Directors.

Without the Board of Directors, the Institute has been unable to:

  • Set standards, nomenclatures and classification of methods that the government must follow to estimate the number of deaths related to Hurricanes Irma and María, and then monitor the quality and reliability of statistical products generated by the government related to the deaths. “The president of the American Statistical Association, the professional association of the world’s largest statistical agencies, wrote a letter last month to the governor to express its disappointment at the exclusion of experts from the Institute in accounting for hurricanes-related deaths, in Executive Order 2018-01,” the motion stated.
  • Approve the hiring of an expert engineer to provide technical assistance to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority so that it can, for the first time, provide the federal government statistics for each generating plant, as required by the S. Energy Information Administration of each electric power supplier in the United States. Without those statistics, it has not been possible to design an appropriate recovery plan for the electrical system after last year’s hurricanes destroyed it.
  • Answer numerous requests for information, which has virtually halted the implementation of Law 187-2015, also known as Interagency Portal Validation for the Granting of Economic Development Incentives Act, an anti-corruption and transparency tool, which facilitates interagency oversight of the tax incentives granted by public agencies to private entities.
  • Recruit the resources to carry out the Consumer Spending Survey, which the Institute planned to start this year, after a two-decade absence of such information.

“The damage caused to Puerto Rico is real. In the absence of a Board of Directors, the Institute has failed to take action to ensure that statistics on the impact of hurricanes are reliable and meet methodologies and criteria of quality, at a time when the whole world has questioned the Puerto Rico government’s statistics,” the Institute’s legal recourse stated.

The Institute also asked the Court to issue the requested Declaratory Judgment and injunction so the Institute can have certainty about who legally composes its Board of Directors and can meet pending and future issues as required by Law 209-2003.

Furthermore, the Institute’s motion referred to a recent letter from the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, which in essence rejected the “removals” of four Board members last year. Aside from questioning the constitutionality of how Gov. Ricardo Rosselló removed the officials.

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

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