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Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Office of the Comptroller


Congressional Testimony
United States House of Representatives
Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
The Honorable James C. Greenwood
Chairman

Statement for the Record

June 17, 2004

SUBJECT: Audit on the E-rate program in the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Mr. Chairman and members of this Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the United States House of Representatives, Good Morning.

My name is Manuel Díaz Saldaña. I come before this Subcommittee in my official capacity as Comptroller of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, in response to your invitation of June 1, 2004. Accompanying me today are: Attorney Alfonso M. Christian, Assistant Comptroller, and Mrs. Olga Ortiz, Senior Auditor.

I am pleased to be able to participate in this hearing and share with you the information obtained during the audit conducted on the E-rate program implemented in the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDOE), regarding the acquisition of equipment and services for the EDUNET network. A more detailed statement on this subject has been submitted to this Subcommittee.

The role of the Comptroller is to “…audit all the revenues, accounts and expenditures of the Commonwealth, of its agencies and instrumentalities and of its municipalities, in order to determine if they have been made in accordance with the law…” The findings with recommendations to the audited government entities are published by means of audit reports.

Federal funds assigned to subsidize government programs are treated as if they were, for all intent and purposes, revenues, accounts and expenditures of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Violations of law are referred to the appropriate state or federal agencies.

Compliance with the recommendations is monitored by means of a program called Corrective Action Plan (CAP).

AUDIT REPORT TI-03-09 OF APRIL 14, 2003

This report covers the period of March 24, 2000 to April 27, 2001, and focuses on five findings.

Finding 1 addresses the acquisition of equipment and services for PRDOE’s EDUNET network without using the formal bidding process and other deficiencies.

The first phase of EDUNET consisted of establishing the infrastructures for the communications network, including internal connections and telecommunications, and Internet access for 760 schools. This phase was to be completed by September 30, 1999. In October 1998, PRDOE awarded three contracts to two companies, Puerto Rico Telephone Company (PRTC) and DRC Corporation, at a cost of $51,353,490, for the acquisition of telecommunication equipment and contracting the Internet access services.

The second phase of the EDUNET project consisted of establishing the infrastructure for the communications network, including internal connections and telecommunications, with wireless technology and providing Internet access for 780 additional schools. This phase was to be completed by September 30, 2000. On April 5, 1999, PRDOE awarded a contract to DRC in the amount of $51,478,221 for work on the second phase of the EDUNET network.

Finding 2 addresses deficiencies detected in the implementation and use of the telecommunications infrastructure installed for the EDUNET network in 30 schools. These were detected during a physical inspection of the schools:

1. The telecommunications infrastructure network installed in the schools was not being used.

2. PRDOE had not acquired computers for the students.

3. The teachers had limited knowledge on computer use.

4. Physical and electrical conditions in the schools did not have the capacity required for using the communication and computer equipment.

5. Fifteen schools (50%) lacked adequate electrical installations to connect the computers that were to be acquired for the students.

We believe these deficiencies resulted from poor planning and inadequate supervision of the contractors by PRDOE

Finding 3 addresses the improper use of federal funds from another federal program for expenses incurred by the PRDOE on the EDUNET network.

Finding 4 addresses the absence of important clauses in the contracts that would have protected the best interests of PRDOE.

Two of these contracts did not contain clauses requiring the contractors to supply certain documents required by Commonwealth regulations regarding compliance with local tax responsibilities and filing tax returns.

Finding 5 addresses the fact that two contracts related to the EDUNET network were not registered in the Office of the Comptroller and others were registered late.

STATUS OF FINDINGS

All findings were referred to the Secretary of Justice of the Commonwealth. To this date the findings are still under advisement.

The findings were also referred to PRDOE, which has notified us that steps are being taken to remedy the situations.

CONCLUSION

Mr. Chairman, the proper use of Commonwealth and federal funds, especially in the PRDOE programs that are directly related to the proper education of children, is of serious and vital concern to our Office. I thank you for your interest in this important issue. I would be happy to answer any questions the members of the Subcommittee may have.


Manuel Díaz Saldaña
Comptroller
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

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