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Puerto Rico OIG: 1,000+ corrective actions requested in 5 years 

The inspector general highlights interventions that saved millions in public funds.

Since its establishment five years ago, the Puerto Rico Office of Inspector General (OIG) has called for more than 1,000 corrective actions across various government agencies.

In an interview with News is my Business, Inspector General Ivelisse Torres-Rivera noted key interventions by the OIG, which included being “able to stop” multimillion-dollar contracts that were not in compliance with legal standards.

Torres-Rivera cited an $11 million contract at the State Department that was signed in December 2020 but stopped by the OIG.

“The OIG’s intervention prevented that the public funds for the contract were disbursed and proceeded with the cancelation of the contract that had clauses contrary to what is established by law,” she said.

Another significant intervention involved an Education Department contract for a charter school in Guaynabo, awarded to a corporation with a principal convicted of corruption in New York.

“That initial contract reached almost $4 million but eventually it had some dispositions that could reach $18 million in public fund disbursements,” Torres-Rivera said. “We were able to achieve the cancellation of that contract.”

The OIG also stepped in at the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) to address a technology contract worth almost $50 million. 

Torres-Rivera said her office “discovered that the technology” existed and was already “developed for other government agencies.”

“Moreover, the contract had leonine clauses where, if the DNER canceled or questioned the contract, the penalties of the cancellation were higher than the cost of what had been agreed upon,” she said, noting that OIG’s intervention prevented the disbursement of these funds.

Additionally, Torres-Rivera discussed the OIG’s involvement in uncovering “fraud cases” within the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which offered temporary benefits to workers — including self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers — affected by COVID-19-related employment disruptions. The program offered up to 39 weeks of support.

“We identified public workers who, although they continued to get their salaries paid, requested fraudulent PUA benefits,” the inspector general said. “In many cases, they indicated that they had additional business accounts, and eventually we proved that they did not have these accounts. In those cases, the OIG filed close to 15 administrative complaints in which we not only requested that those public workers return the money, but that they also had to pay penalties. And, in some cases, they also received disciplinary sanctions by the agencies where they worked.”

Torres-Rivera added that the OIG can recommend administrative actions and sanctions, and in many cases the office follows up to ensure the agencies implement corrective actions or disciplinary measures against public workers in non-criminal cases.

“The OIG has requested over 1,000 corrective actions,” she said. “Sixty-four percent of the corrective actions have already been executed and the remaining are in the process of constant monitoring by the OIG to achieve that those requests are addressed.” 

Author Details
Author Details
Maria Miranda is an investigative reporter and editor with 20 years of experience in Puerto Rico’s English-language newspapers. In that capacity, she has worked on long-term projects and has covered breaking news under strict deadlines. She is proficient at mining data from public databases and interviewing people (both public figures and private sector individuals). She is also a translator, and has edited and translated an economy book on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. She worked as an interpreter for FEMA during the recent recovery efforts of Hurricane María and earned her FEMA badge.

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