Medicine

Puerto Rico governor says contract to Whitefish company should be canceled

Puerto Rico governor says contract to Whitefish company should be canceled

The latest updates from the Puerto Rican government show that nearly 70 percent of the island remains without power; the storm made landfall on the island on September 20.

Tapped by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, Whitefish was supposed to help.

PREPA's CEO Ricardo Ramos told CNN he picked Whitefish because it did not demand a down payment and agreed to take care of the logistics for workers' housing and food. "Employee flights are billed at $1,000 each way".

"We can't be responsible for what the others might do", the spokesperson said when asked about the line in the contract that said government agencies may not audit or review cost and profit elements.

The company did not immediately return BBC News' request for comment on the governor's statement.

See the full text of the contract here.

Though Zinke and Techmanski acknowledge knowing one another, the Interior Department and Techmanski both told the Washington Post the secretary played no role in Whitefish securing the contract.

The specific terms of the contract also raised eyebrows, from the exorbitant hourly rates charged by Whitefish to its barring of a government audit.

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Earlier on Sunday, Puerto Rico's Governor, Ricardo Rosselló had called for the contract with Whitefish to be canceled, and PREPA's Ramos said he had accepted the governor's recommendation. "Any attempts by the dishonest media or political operatives to tie me to awarding or influencing any contract involving Whitefish are completely baseless".

Previously Congressional Democrats began asking the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the contract.

"Based on initial review and information from PREPA, FEMA has significant concerns with how PREPA procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable", FEMA said in the statement.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Friday that the federal government had nothing to do with the decision to award a small Montana company with a contract to fix Puerto Rico's electrical grid. "FEMA was not involved in the selection".

This week, Rep. Rob Bishop, the Utah Republican who heads the House Natural Resources Committee, sent the power company director a letter demanding documents, including those related to the contract with Whitefish and others that show what authority the agency has to deviate from normal contracting processes.

The board had to do something: With so many people without power, PREPA is facing heavy criticism for having given the main restoration contract - worth up to $300 million - to Whitefish Energy, a tiny Montana firm with no history of executing on projects of this scale. Just last week, the oversight board said it would use its authority to install its own emergency manager to pay closer attention to the day-to-day operations of the utility.

FEMA also says the contract decision was made by the power authority.