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Union leader urges review of Puerto Rico power utility call-center contract

By on August 13, 2019

Utier President Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo (CB photo/Agustín Criollo Oquera)

Says new governor needs to look into conduct at public corporation

SAN JUAN — The president of the Irrigation & Electrical Workers Union (Utier by its Spanish acronym), Ángel Figueroa, was calling Tuesday for the review of a contract being worked on by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) for a customer service call center.

“Now the governor [Wanda Vázquez] has to show more interest on contracts such as the one for customer service over the phone that costs $5.8 million when the proposals we have made cost $2.9 million. It’s not a $100 difference,” Figueroa said in an interview with WKAQ radio.

His remarks come after Prepa Executive Director José Ortiz said Monday that the contract with the Canada-based consulting firm Stantec was no longer necessary after Vázquez put a halt to its signing. The $450,000 was part of the restoration and reconstruction and strengthening of the electrical system of the island rebuilding of the island’s energy grid after it was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

The contract would have been managed by the director of Prepa’s Emergency Management Office, Arturo Deliz, who is responsible for requests for reimbursement to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), along with a consultant of the public corporation, José Pérez Canabal.

The idea was to work on FEMA reimbursements through the latter instead of through the Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3).

“It is interesting that in less than 24 hours, [Vázquez] was able to solve a problem that was going to cost the country $450,000. [Ortiz] ran scared because she questioned him. It’s not only the contract, it’s the people who coincidentally are in the contract,” the union leader said.

“Like this contract, other contracts have to be questioned the same way that was done with this one. If it had not been made public and the governor acknowledged that credibility and contracting left and right were put into public discussion, that José Ortiz who, together with his consultant José Pérez Canabal, this contract would not have been stopped,” Utier’s president said.

Figueroa also claimed that former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares did not pay attention “to this type of behavior.”

Ortiz had said Sunday that the contract was important, but after meeting with Vázquez on Monday, said the deal had been canceled because FEMA had just agreed to provide “$108 million needed to pay contractors who had been waiting for the money since February,” the Associated Press reported.

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