P.R. Institute of Statistics chief questions plans to consolidate agency
Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics Executive Director Mario Marazzi questioned the government’s plans to consolidate that public agency with the sole purpose of outsourcing its services down the road.
Rather than merging it into the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC, for its initials in Spanish,) Marazzi said to speed up the proposal to outsource the Institute’s functions, the government could simply propose a bill to amend the entity’s Organic Law.
The economist also suggested that the administration include its proposed outsourcing plan in an existing legislative measure, such as Senate Bill 236, known as the “Open Data Act.”
“But in this case, it was proposed to merge with the sole purpose of outsourcing its duties. It is a proposal that we find strange. I don’t want to think that it is a mechanism designed to prevent the Legislature from performing its duties of analyzing and giving final approval of the reorganization of entities created by law, such as the Institute,” said Marazzi.
On Jan. 8, at a press conference at La Fortaleza, Secretary of Public Affairs and Public Policy Ramón Rosario, presented a proposal to reorganize the DDEC and consolidate several public entities, including the Institute.
The sole purpose of consolidating the Institute under the DDEC is to ensure its “real independence” given that it depends on gubernatorial appointments, including executive officials who are part of the Board, Marazzi said citing the comments Rosario offered that day.
While welcoming the acknowledgement that statistical functions should be performed without political interference, Marazzi said the agency is open to analyzing alternative mechanisms that allow the selection of Board members without the government’s intervention.
“Recent experiences with this issue provide strong evidence to support the desirability of this change in public policy,” said Marazzi.
The Institute was established as a public agency with such administrative and fiscal autonomy and allows it to operate independent of the government, almost like a private company, he said.
“As La Fortaleza already knows, the Institute does not consult neither its contracts nor its designations with La Fortaleza nor the Office of Management and Budget. Instead, it makes these decisions like the private sector does, based on professional and technical criteria that ensure our institution’s proper governance,” the official said .
This governance model has not only proven to be successful, but also that the Institute’s objectivity and professionalism have been recognized by its services users and interested parties, most recently by the Congressional Task Force created under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, which specifically recommended that the Institute continue to protect its independence.