AECOM assures work to date on Puerto Rico Housing contract wouldn’t be affected
SAN JUAN – As the enrollment deadline approaches to enroll in the “Tu Hogar Renace” home-repair program for those affected by Hurricane Maria, the Court of Appeals received Wednesday a document opposing an order issued last week that allows Adjusters International (AI) to continue running the Housing Department program.
In an interview with Caribbean Business, Vahid Ownjazayeri–vice president of AECOM, which was the competing bidder that Housing’s Bid Review Board said should have been awarded the contract–did not want to speculate about the possibility that by the time the controversy is resolved, the project will already be in an advanced phase, if not completed.
Although Feb. 23 is the deadline for homeowners to enroll in the program, CB learned that Housing requested an extension period from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that had not yet been granted.
“Tu Hogar Renace” is a program created under section 403 of the Stafford Act that provides for an allocation of funds for temporary and energy repairs.
The controversy is over the contract awarded to the company that would serve as project manager and in charge of coordinating the process of publicizing the program, evaluating and approving or denying applications, and then coordinating the construction work.
The company originally selected by Housing was Adjusters International, but last week, the review board ordered the suspension of its contract for not having complied with the agency’s proposal process requirements. Adjusters appealed the board’s decision in court, which in turn ordered the contract to remain in place until the case is heard.
Meanwhile, this week Adjusters announced that as of Feb. 20, it had completed 60,174 applications, of which 19,874 were approved and 1,474 homes were already being repaired.
Ownjazayeri said that if AECOM were finally awarded the contract at the end of the in-court process, the work already begun would not be affected.
“This is not the first time we do this kind of work. In Louisiana, we mobilized the team to start in 12 hours, in the [U.S.] Virgin Islands as well. We have about 300 people working full-time and on permanent employment on the island at this time. In addition, our commitment is to hire additional personnel if needed in Puerto Rico, and to offer Puerto Rican workers who have moved to the [mainland] United States and want to return, to work with us,” the executive said.
“If Housing complies with regulations, there is no need for production losses,” he reiterated.
Regarding the contract amount, which according to Housing was the determining factor when deciding in favor of Adjusters, Ownjazayeri pointed out that the quote his firm presented included services that were not in the contract granted to Adjusters, an issue that is subject to revision.