House eliminates compensation for Prepa Governing Board members
SAN JUAN – The average compensation for Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) Governing Board members, around $62,555, and refundable expenses were eliminated Monday evening by the House of Representatives.
Shortly after 8 p.m., Governing Committee President Jorge Navarro Suárez presented House Bill 475, which alters Prepa’s Governing Board, as proposed by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, as well as eliminating current compensation for the board’s members to establish a fixed stipend.
With 30 votes in favor and 12 against, the House approved the measure that now goes to the Senate and aims for Rosselló to integrate the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority’s (FAFAA) president, the Economic Development & Commerce Department (DDEC) secretary, and the chairman of the Public-Private Alliance Authority (APP) in Prepa’s Governing Board.
Currently, the law establishes that the Governing Board is composed of nine members, six of whom are named by the governor and require the advice and consent of the Senate.
With the approval of H.B. 475, only three of the six members designated by the governor must be approved by the Senate, and the remaining three would be executive branch officials.
The bill keeps 3 consumer representatives
Regarding board members’ compensation, the bill proposes to eliminate their current payment to establish a per diem concept. For every regular or special session, each board member will receive up to $200. If a member needs to carry out a task assigned by Prepa, he or she will be paid up to $150 a day.
The bill establishes that no member of Prepa’s Governing Board may receive more than $30,000 annually in per diems or reimbursements.
“Right before completing his leadership, former Gov. Alejandro García Padilla decreed that the [electric power] Authority’s Governing Board members will reap annual salaries between $60,000 and $72,000, plus the right to claim reimbursements for land and air transportation, lodging, and meals. These salaries are exorbitant and unjustified, especially if we consider the public corporation’s fiscal and economic crisis,” the Government Committee president said.
Navarro Suárez assured that voters chose new public policy to achieve changes in light of the fiscal crisis, and to see Prepa receive the investment it needs, as with public-private partnerships, for example.
Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Jesús Santa warned that the bill’s approval jeopardizes Prepa’s restructuring agreement with its creditors, because one of the conditions was to depoliticize the Governing Board, while the bill proposes that three executive branch officials will be a part of it.
“We are going back to the poor management of politicized boards. This agreement between the [electric power] Authority and bondholders won’t be achieved if we politicize the board. It is a big mistake,” he emphasized.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Minority Leader Denis Márquez said H.B. 475 will lead to Prepa’s privatization.
“One simple look at the bill establishes that FAFAA, DDEC, and APP directors will be members of the board. That is guaranteed privatization,” he said.
House Approves Enterprise Puerto Rico
During its session, the House approved another bill that creates the nonprofit Enterprise Puerto Rico, for this entity to foster the island’s economic development by attracting new capital investment.
Enterprise Puerto Rico’s board will be presided by the governor, and an amendment was included so new companies that come to establish themselves on the island buy an unspecified percentage of local products.
Another measure considered before the House session ended was Senate Bill 21, which amends the Municipal Revenue Collections Center’s (CRIM by its Spanish acronym) board so most of its members are affiliated to the party that prevailed in the general election instead of the party with most municipal officials. If approved, the New Progressive Party (NPP) would be the majority, instead of the PDP, which has 45 elected mayors.