Puerto Rico Energy Deal Bars Government From Conducting Audits

A leaked deal between Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and Whitefish, a Montana energy company conveniently located in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown, shows that the government is now prohibited from auditing or reviewing labor costs for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.

The deal also bars reviews on profits from the company’s efforts.

A copy of the contract was obtained by reporter Ken Klippenstein, who released the agreement on Twitter.

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The Hill reports:

“A copy of the deal obtained by reporter Ken Klippenstein reveals that the government isn’t allowed to “audit or review the cost and profit elements” under the agreement, allowing the company greater discretion and secrecy for how it spends the $300 million to restore power to the island. Puerto Rico is rebuilding after two major hurricanes wiped out most of the island’s electrical grid.

Whitefish signed the deal with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which also prohibits the government from making “any claim against Contractor related to delayed completion of work.”

Whitefish is a small business. They had only two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Many question why a government contract would be signed with Whitefish to aid in relief efforts.

Now, controversy shrouds the company, as it is clear their government contract with Puerto Rico bars any reviews that would shed light on what they’re doing and if they’re profiting from their relief work.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz has been highly critical of the Trump Administration for what she says is slow and inadequate aid. She called for voiding the deal, after which Whitefish threatened to pull relief efforts.

Whitefish claims that 84 “linemen” are working hard in San Juan, doing the work she’s repeatedly asked for. But Whitefish indicated that the deal either remains as is, or they’ll “send them back.”

Cruz, always maintaining that relief work is more of an obligation than charity, tweeted “They are threatening not to do their job.”

The Hill continues:

“Two House committees and a federal watchdog have all opened investigations into the deal. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz has called for the deal to be voided and investigated after representatives for the company feuded with her on Twitter and asked her if she wanted them to stop working.

“We’ve got 44 linemen rebuilding power lines in your city & 40 more men just arrived. Do you want us to send them back or keep working?” Whitefish Energy tweeted to the mayor Wednesday.

“They are threatening not to do their job which frankly is quite irregular for a company hired to the work for the public sector,” she tweeted in response.

“The contract should be voided right away and a proper process which is clear, transparent, legal, moral and ethical should take place,” Cruz added in comments to Yahoo News.

Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee have also raised questions about the scope of the deal.

“The size and terms of the contract, as well as the circumstances surrounding the contract’s formation, raise questions regarding PREPA’s standard contract awarding procedures,” Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) wrote Thursday.

Whitefish said Thursday that it welcomes the investigations.

Mayor Cruz wonders why Whitefish is afraid of more transparent contract. If Whitefish is offering to help Puerto Rico, should Cruz just be grateful for the assistance?

Or does Whitefish have a reason for keeping their work shrouded in secrecy? Perhaps they simply know Cruz’s reputation for criticizing aid efforts and want to protect themselves.

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