CPI Scores Federal Court Win Against Fiscal Control Board and For Access to Information

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston rejected the Fiscal Control Board for Puerto Rico claim that due to “sovereign immunity” it did not have to submit to the right of access to information recognized under the Commonwealth’s Constitution and deliver documents on their processes requested by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish). “In this case, the Board stated that, under the PROMESA law, it enjoyed complete immunity from the people’s claims of access to the information in its archives. Through this decision, the First Circuit Court in Boston rejected this assertion that highlights the Board’s impunity and total power. A court has finally put a stop to some of the Board’s abuses. The people of Puerto Rico have the right to know what their de facto rulers are doing.

Puerto Rico’s Government has Problems Complying With its Transparency and Open Data Laws

More than two years ago, laws were passed to ensure the availability of specific data generated by public agencies and to establish procedures to access government information. The Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) found that the government has appointed 98% of the Public Records Officers and only 36% of the Data Officers in the agencies, while the contact information for the majority of these appointed officials has not been made available to the public. Approximately 20% of both types of officers’ appointments occurred after the CPI sent public information requests in January. In an exercise to oversee the implementation of Act 122 of 2019, “Puerto Rico Open Government Data Act,” and Act 141 of 2019, “Transparency and Expedited Procedure for Public Records Access Act,” the CPI sent information requests on the compliance of these statutes to La Fortaleza (the Governor’s Office), the Office of Management and Budget (OGP, in Spanish), and the Puerto Rico Innovation and Technology Services (PRITS). In light of the information received in response to these requests, it is clear that there is duplicity, and even confusion, with regards to the appointments of Public Records Officers and Data Officers.

Journalists go to court to gain access to information on the contract renegotiation between AES and PREPA

The Center for Investigative Journalism and journalist Omar Alfonso, editor of regional newspaper La Perla del Sur, on Tuesday filed a Mandamus on the constitutional right of access to public information to petition documents related to the renegotiation of the contract between coal ash company AES and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

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.