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PR Education Department Owes U.S. $3.5m… ASA Water Purer Than Bottled Water… Romeu, Cifuentes Are Summoned To PRIIF Hearings… 3 Nights, $700… USS Stennis Prepares Hispanic Heritage Celebration… Vizcarrondo Says Trade Potential With Europe & LA Ignored…

PR Education Department Owes $3.5 Million To U.S.

September 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – An audit from the Office of the Inspector General of the federal Education Department said that the Puerto Rico Education Department (ED) must return $3.5 million to the U.S. government that was used inappropriately between 1999 and 2000.

According to newspaper articles, the report is the last of the investigation of the contracts that between the Education Department and Rock Solid Technologies (RST), a firm contacted by the last administration of Pedro Rossello to establish a computer system to manage the agency’s payroll.

The report says that the Education Department used $1 million in Title I funds and $2.3 million from the "Reto al Conocimiento Tecnológico" program to finance contracts with RST totaling $7.3 million.

"None of the RST expenses should be charged directly to any Education Department program because the RST services were related to maintaining the payroll systems, the human resources system and the lunch program for the schools," the auditor said.

The poor use of the funds, the document says, happened because the Education Department did not establish adequate controls to administer the RST contracts.

As a result, Title I students and the "Reto de Conocimiento Tecnológico" program did not adequately benefit from funds assigned to the programs.

The audit covered May 1, 1999, to June 30, 2003, and included the revision of 10 contracts awarded to RST, including several under the current administration. But the only two contracts pointed out were from the prior administration.

The report said that the Education Department has continued contracts with the firm because of the wide knowledge it had about the agency payroll. The director of the Office of Federal Affairs at the Education Department, Ileana Fas, said that RST, a firm based in Austin, Texas, and Puerto Rico, is trying to rework the agency’s payroll system.

Health Dept. Says ASA Water Has Less Bacteria Than Bottled Water

September 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Water that is supplied by the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (ASA) yielded bacteria on fewer occasions than bottled water, according to an annual report from the Health Department about the state of water, milk and food on the island.

Health Secretary Johnny Rullan said that they did not find bacteria 99 percent of the times that they examined ASA water, as opposed to 90 percent of the times they examined bottled water.

"Ninety-nine percent of the times we examined water from the aqueducts it did not have evidence of bacteria. In the case of bottled water, it was 90 percent," Rullan said.

The official said that most of the tap water and bottled water, as well as milk and food dispensed in establishments met the majority of Health Department requirements.

Romeu, Cifuentes Are Summoned To PRIIF Hearings

September 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The House Treasury and Public Integrity committees this week summoned the former Chief of Staff Alvaro Cifuentes and the former executive director of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co., Xavier Romeu, to appear at hearings about the Puerto Rico Industrial Incentives Fund (PRIIF).

However, attorney Nilsa Garcia, the investigator representing the majority of House members of the Popular Democratic Party, said the appearance of both of the former officials of Pedro Rossello’s administration is voluntary.

The (Treasury) committee does not have any legal authority to require them to appear," Garcia said in response to statements that Cifuentes, who said last week that he would not be available to appear until the elections on Nov. 2 are over.

Rep. Jorge Colberg Toro, chairman of the House Public Integrity Committee, said that he is ready to go the court in order to make both the former officials attend the public hearings, and confirmed that Romeu and Cifuentes are obliged to testify.

3 Nights, $700

September 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved. 

Puerto Rico: A three-night package at the Inn on the Blue Horizon in Vieques, P.R., is specially priced at $700 for two. The deal includes ocean-view room, dinner for two, daily breakfasts, a bottle of champagne and other goodies. Taxes are 9 percent more. Good Sept. 16 through Dec. 14. 787-741-3318,

Stennis Prepares For Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration

By Journalist 3rd Class Jessica Phillips, USS John C. Stennis, Public Affairs

September 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Hindustan Times. All rights reserved. 

US Fed News

USS JOHN C. STENNIS, Sept. 7 -- Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) are preparing for festivities.

Sept. 17, Stennis Sailors at sea will enjoy an Hispanic-style fiesta dinner followed by a cultural performance honoring Hispanic achievements in American History.

Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Wendy Vasquez of Los Angeles, explained that the reason for the celebration is to increase awareness among the Stennis crew of the contributions made by Hispanic Americans [in business, government, law, science, athletics and arts, as well as the core values of our nation]. Equally important, she said, it allows Stennis Sailors to experience the diverse and colorful culture.

The Hispanic culture in the United States not only comes from South of border in Mexico. It is a blend of unique and rich cultures reaching as far south as Chile to the Andes Mountains in Peru.

Popular Salsa music and dance come from the sunny Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico and Cuba, each with their own rich and distinct culture.

The roots of the Hispanic culture are traced back to thriving port cities in Andalusia, Spain, where Christopher Columbus, along with other Spanish explorers, launched voyages to discover and explore the Americas.

Vizcarrondo Says PR Ignores Trade Potential With Europe

September 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Speaker of the House Carlos Vizcarrondo said on Wednesday that Puerto Ricans ignore the potential for trade development that exists with Latin America and Europe.

Vizcarrondo made the statement during the "Octava Conferencia Latinoamericana de Zonas Francas" that began Wednesday in San Juan.

"We Puerto Ricans know that we respect our relationship with the United States, but we ignore our relationship with Latin America and Europe," he said during a speech welcoming conference participants.

"We are eager to arrive at the opportune moment to open trade with Latin America, create alliances with the business sector and the governments of our brother countries, in order to take advantage of the enormous trade opportunities that exist if together we complement our strengths and weaknesses," he added.

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