Independence of Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics at Risk Again

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s appointment of three new members to the board of directors for the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics (PRIS) in November has again raised concerns about the agency’s independence. According to advocates for transparency, open government, and evidence-based policymaking, two of the appointments violate the law that established PRIS.

The law states members of the board must be experts in fields related to statistics, mathematics, economics, or planning. Also, only one member of the board can be a government official. One of the newly appointed members lacks the specified credentials, while another is a government official, which exceeds the limit of one.

Earlier in the year, Governor Rosselló proposed dismantling PRIS by consolidating it into another government department, removing its independence protections, and outsourcing its statistical research. That plan followed the governor’s illegal removal of four PRIS board members in 2017. PRIS was preserved after a last-minute intervention by the Puerto Rico Senate.

With the July news of PRIS being preserved, ASA President Lisa LaVange stated, “Having independent, strong, and transparent statistics will serve the health, well-being, and economy of Puerto Rico and its people for decades to come.”

The American Statistical Association is concerned about what appears to be a renewal of the attempts to undermine the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics and its independence. The ASA urges the laws protecting the independence of PRIS be followed and will work to ensure they are.

On January 7, ASA Executive Director Ron Wasserstein wrote to the chair of the Board of Directors for PRIS urging his action to keep PRIS a strong and independent statistical agency.