Puerto Rico Senator Pushes Anticorruption Bill After Arrests

Michael Deibert

(Bloomberg) -- Puerto Rico’s senate majority leader has introduced a bill to combat corruption in the bankrupt U.S. commonwealth, whose officials have faced presidential criticism and federal prosecution as it rebuilds after 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria.

The bill by Senator Carmelo J. Rios-Santiago of the ruling New Progressive Party, would require government contractors to use software that would track hours worked, screen time used and subject matter handled.

“This is a good step we can take as a government to show that we’re doing our part to make sure money is well spent,” Rios-Santiago said in an interview. “It will help us keep track that people are spending money on what they’re supposed to be spending it on.”

In recent months, Puerto Rico has seen several high-profile arrests.

In July, the island’s former secretary of education and the former head of its health insurance administration were indicted along with the head of an accounting firm and three others. They face allegations of theft, money laundering and wire fraud.

Last month, two Federal Emergency Management Agency officials who oversaw the reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and the former president of Cobra Acquisitions were also arrested on fraud and conspiracy charges linked to recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria, which killed thousands.

President Donald Trump says recovery costs have been inflated by corruption on the island; opponents on the island say his administration is discriminating against the predominantly Latino population.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Deibert in San Juan at mdeibert@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Matthew Bristow at mbristow5@bloomberg.net, Stephen Merelman, Jonathan Levin

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