Let’s Blow Out a Candle for the Court Cases Against the Board and the Government

During the past years, Puerto Rico has been witnessing a mise en scene in which the Fiscal Control Board says, “We have to cut here” and the government tells the press “I am not going to cut anything.” The net result is that many of the cuts have indeed been made, seen and felt. As when there was a lack of resources in the Institute of Forensic Sciences to process “rape kits,” or when funds were cut from the Women’s Ombudsman Office. There are also less visible cuts that take their toll, as when agency employees have retired and are not replaced to “save money,” and the ones left behind are unprepared and have no references on processes and public services. Several economists have questioned the lack of transparency in the methodology used by the government as well as the Board to draft the economic projections, fiscal plans and budgets. The projections are barely met, the fiscal plans are a fictional exercise that fills the pockets of fancy consultants in the United States. And after fighting to approve budgets, all kinds of reallocations are made, and sometimes, money miraculously appears out of nowhere when there is a crisis that arouses passions in public opinion.

A cantarle cumpleaños al caso en el tribunal contra la Junta y el Gobierno

El país ha estado asistiendo durante los pasados años a una puesta en escena en la cual la Junta de Control Fiscal dice “hay que cortar por aquí” y el Gobierno le dice a la prensa “no voy a cortar”. El resultado neto es que muchos de los recortes en efecto se han dado, se ven y se sienten. Como cuando faltan recursos en el Instituto de Ciencias Forenses para procesar “rape kits”, o cuando se recortaron fondos a la Oficina de la Procuradora de las Mujeres. También hay recortes menos visibles que pasan factura, como cuando los empleados de una agencia se van retirando y no los reemplazan para “ahorrar”, quedándose personas sin preparación y sin referencias sobre los procesos y los servicios públicos. No son pocos los economistas que han cuestionado la poca transparencia en la metodología usada tanto por el Gobierno como por la Junta para elaborar las proyecciones económicas, los planes fiscales y los presupuestos.

Current Transparency and Open Data Laws in Puerto Rico Should Have Never Been Approved

The Puerto Rico House of Representatives’ Government Commission is investigating the result of the implementation of Acts 122, “Open Data Act,” and 141 of 2019, “Transparency and Expedited Procedure for Access to Public Information Act.”

The Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) was invited to the public hearing held last Tuesday and we testified to expose some of the problems of access to information that journalists specifically face when we ask for public information, before and after the approval of these laws. Long story short: Acts 122 and 141 of 2019 should never have been approved. Without public hearings, without accepting the multiple amendments submitted by the groups that continuously request public information, and signed in an act of contempt, and we could say revenge, the day before Gov. Ricardo Rosselló left La Fortaleza. They haven’t been of much use. Access to information today is no better than before.

Las leyes de transparencia y datos abiertos nunca debieron aprobarse

La Comisión de Gobierno de la Cámara de Representantes investiga el resultado de la implantación de las leyes 122 de 2019, “Ley de Datos Abiertos”, y la 141 de 2019, “Ley de Transparencia y Procedimiento Expedito para el Acceso a la Información Pública”. El Centro de Periodismo Investigativo fue invitado a la vista pública este martes y participamos para exponer algunos de los problemas de acceso a la información que concretamente enfrentamos los periodistas cuando pedimos información pública, antes y después de la aprobación de estas leyes. Les adelanto la conclusión, para los que tengan poco tiempo: las leyes 122 y 141 de 2019 nunca debieron aprobarse. Sin vistas públicas, sin acoger las múltiples enmiendas sometidas por los grupos que solicitan continuamente información pública, y firmadas en un acto de menosprecio, y podríamos decir venganza, el día antes de que Ricardo Rosselló saliera de La Fortaleza. No han servido de mucho.

Puerto Rico Health Department’s COVID-19 math is wrong

Bad news about the COVID-19 epidemic in Puerto Rico hit this morning like a bucket of cold water: the Health Department had been incorrectly reporting data on infections on the island for the past four weeks. Health Secretary Lorenzo González acknowledged today to the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) that the agency has been mixing the results of molecular tests, which confirm that a person has the virus, with results of serological tests or “rapid test kits,” which should not be used to inform infection status, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The implications: There has been a double, perhaps even a triple count of test results in Puerto Rico’s official COVID-19 statistics. For example, a person who tested positive on the rapid test and then had a molecular or “PCR” test confirming that positive, it can be counted as two separate cases in the numbers reported by the Government. 

The CPI asked if the current number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico has a double or even triple count.

Falsehood Behind the State Epidemiologist in Charge of the Response to the Coronavirus

State Epidemiologist Carmen Deseda, responsible to advise and inform citizens on how to fight the coronavirus pandemic in Puerto Rico, has no formal academic training as an epidemiologist, but instead took a course that accredits her as an Epidemiology Officer, the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) found. According to her curriculum vitae, Deseda has a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico and an MD in Medicine from the Universidad Central del Caribe in Puerto Rico. In 1980, she participated in a field epidemiology training at the Epidemiology Intelligence Service Unit at the Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She has no master’s degree or PhD in epidemiology. Her field training in epidemiology was offered by the CDC, which is not an academic institution, and is offered to coach doctors who will practice as “State Epidemiologists.”

Deseda was appointed State Epidemiologist in 1994 by ex-Governor Pedro Rosselló-González.