PRWOW News Service
Non-Profit Groups Weather Long Wait For Trusteeship Money
By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin
February 16, 2002
Jose Pagan, executive director of the Children Trusteeship and financing vice president at the Government Development Bank (GDB), said the agency still hasn't paid a single dime from the money obtained through the tobacco companies agreement for the private initiatives of non-profit organizations already approved by the past administration of former Gov. Pedro Rossello.
However, Pagan noted that the money has been available since December 2000 and that the delay in disbursements is due to the reevaluation that was ordered by Gov. Sila Calderon's administration on the 99 initiatives approved by the previous government.
Seventy-two of these were okayed, and 24 of them already signed contracts. Another 13 are pending evaluation, and 14 others were not considered. The latter batch includes several proposed projects from government agencies and the Prisma project, according to the information provided by the GDB.
Pagan assured that the disbursement will be issued, as soon as the non-profit organizations begin to sign the contracts and submit the bills for the expenses of the approved initiatives.
"These moneys are available, and there is no impediment to pay. The disbursement will work by issuing payments based on the bills and certifications," Pagan said.
According to the data provided by the GDB, Puerto Rico will receive from $70 million to $80 million a year until 2025 for an approximate total of $2.3 billion. Fifty percent of the annual moneys will go to pay a bond emission made in November 2000, while the other half will go to cover programs of non-profit organizations to benefit children.
However, following an amendment to the law that creates the trusteeship, now the funds will also be available to finance future programs for families in Puerto Rico.
"This was done to have more room to work with as far as the type of projects that may be carried out is concerned," explained Pagan, who added that no one has considered changing the name of the Children Trusteeship as a result of the amendment.
So far there are $507.4 million available for the Children Trusteeship, plus $6.2 million in interests gained as of November 2001. Those moneys come from the $158 million received from the agreement with tobacco companies, plus the net $349 million produced from the bond emission in November 2000 that is paid with the future income of the tobacco companies.
Some $32.2 million has been paid for the bond emission up until now.
Pagan explained that a series of disbursements have already been made to cover several commitments of the past administration, although he admitted that was not necessarily what the past government had intended.
For example, the Rossello administration had allocated $78 million of the moneys to purchase school books and $250 million for the acquisition of computers for the public school system.
After a revision, the current administration decided to reassign those funds in the following way: $85 million for school improvements and the remaining $175 million for the acquisition of technological equipment, including computers. Of the $85 million, $40 million has been disbursed, and $14 million has been disbursed from the $175 million for computer software.
The $78 million for school books, however, was disbursed just as it was intended by the past administration.
Pagan also explained that one of the commitments of the current administration was the creation of the Drug Control Office, for which $4 million of the trusteeship was allocated, although not yet disbursed.
In the private initiatives front, $55 million has been allocated, of which approximately $9 million was used to pay a credit line that the Tourism Co. had taken from the GDB to pay for the Prisma project.
The rest of the money will be used for the 72 initiatives already approved, Pagan explained.
In related matters, Pagan said the loss of approximately $48 million from the trusteeship that was announced by GDB President Juan Agosto Alicea several weeks ago will not affect the payment of the bond emission or the moneys assigned for the already approved initiatives.
"What will be affected is the excess moneys. But we have the possibility of taking measures so that neither the bonds nor the initiatives are affected," said Pagan, who explained that not all the 50% of the money assigned to pay the bond emission is used, thus there is always a 'leftover'. Pagan said they intend to use that excess money to compensate for the money that will not be received this year for the payment of the bond emission, while the money that will be lacking this year for the initiatives can be paid with the future income.
As explained by both Pagan and Agosto Alicea, the loss of the aforementioned money was due to the incorrect filing of a legislation required to receive the money from the agreement. However, Pagan said the mistake was corrected, and no more money will be lost from the trusteeship from now on.
The private initiatives of the trusteeship are evaluated by a committee comprised of three GDB employees, who later submit their evaluations to the board of directors comprised by the governor, the GDB president, Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez, Office of Management and Budget Director Melba Acosta, and from the private sector, Sandra Zaiter, James Thordsen, and Dr. Ana Piñeiro.