Puerto Rico governor calls for cancellation of Whitefish contract
SAN JUAN — On Sunday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló called for the immediate cancellation of the contract between the Electric Power Authority (Prepa) and Whitefish Energy.
“With the aim of protecting the public interest, as governor I request that Prepa’s board invoke the cancelation clause in the contract with Whitefish Energy immediately,” the governor said during a press conference in La Fortaleza.
“Prepa said there was a mistake in that process,” he added, while suggesting that the investigations being carried out both at the local and federal levels will determine the future of Prepa Executive Director Ricardo Ramos.
He assured that when the company was contracted the executive branch was not consulted, since there was an “emergency protocol” and “Prepa has its role.”
Although the contract amount is for up to $300 million, Rosselló Nevares said $8 million has been disbursed to Whitefish so far, but that he was not aware if that number had risen due to recent work. Prepa’s $200 million contract with Cobra Energy will remain in effect, he added.
The governor also requested coordinating with the Florida and New York state governments to send grid-repair crews to the island as soon as possible to assist in the island’s electric power restoration efforts after its collapse in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Moreover, he criticized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for “its lack of execution” in helping with the recovery efforts related to the island’s crippled power grid. “Prepa has 404 crews, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers only has seven […] They haven’t been able to comply with the timeframe they stipulated to us before signing the contract,” the governor noted.
“We were told…they felt they could repair the electrical system with the collaboration of other contractors and the utility itself in 45 days. The truth is it’s already been 30 days since the contract was signed and there are only seven crews here,” he added.
As for the restoration goals established by the commonwealth—which call for 30% of power generation by the end of the month and 95% by Dec. 15—Gov. Rosselló assured the government continues to work to meet them.
“We continue working to make it possible. We need the crews, no doubt,” the governor replied to Caribbean Business.
While the expectation is to have more than 1,000 crews on the island by Nov. 8, the governor said details on the aid agreements with New York and Florida are still being hammered out. There still is no timeframe for their arrival.
Gov. Rosselló further requested the appointment of a “special outside coordinator” for Prepa’s contracts and purchases division. The role would be served by a Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority official.
The U.S. Congress, Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are all investigating the contract amid concerns about the process of its awarding.
At the local level, the Office of Management and Budget initially reviewed the contract, but two days later asked to refer the investigation to the Office of the Comptroller.