by Countable | 10.30.17
On Sunday, Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló (R) announced that he was voiding the $300 million contract awarded to a small Montana power company, Whitefish Energy, to rebuild the island's devastated power grid. News of the contract raised many questions about the company’s ability to fulfill the contract, as well as the contract’s terms and the company’s ties to GOP figures.
Since news of the contract exploded in the media, multiple investigations have been initiated into the deal. An emergency supervisor has been put in place by the federal control board that is monitoring the island’s finances, and prominent local officials have called for the resignation of the head of Puerto Rico’s power company.
As reported previously by Countable, Whitefish Energy, a company that specializes in power grid repairs in extremely hazardous conditions, was in contact with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) after Hurricane Irma damaged the island. When the severity of Hurricane Maria’s impending impact was realized, PREPA reached out to a variety of companies about the repairs that were likely to be needed. Whitefish was the only company that would agree to do the work without requiring a hefty down payment. PREPA, which is currently $9 billion in debt, did not have millions on hand for a down payment.
However, on the day the storm hit the company only had two full-time employees. The company historically relies on temporary contract labor to do the vast majority of their work, though they had never embarked on a project of the scale of what they'd face in Puerto Rico. Also, CEO Andrew Techmanski has personal ties to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Texas GOP heavy-hitter and Trump campaign donor Joe Colonetta is a primary financier for the company.
Finally, the contract involves very high reimbursement rates for labor and equipment and contained a clause that limited the government’s right to audit Whitefish’s work.
It is "allowable under [Federal Emergency Management Agency] FEMA regulations in emergencies" for the usual bid process for federal contracts to be circumvented, reports The Hill, and both PREPA representatives as well as Whitefish have defended the contract and the work being done. But with 70% of the island still without power over a month after Hurricane Maria hit, and the other details emerging about the company and the contract, many concerns have been raised.
Investigations are being launched into the deal by the FBI, both the House Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources Committees, as well as the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA. According to the Associated Press, the "federal control board that oversees Puerto Rico’s finances announced this week that retired Air Force Col. Noel Zamot will be in charge of power reconstruction efforts" as opposed to the heads of PREPA. Governor Rosselló, however, has rejected that appointment, swearing that if any officials engaged in inappropriate dealing that he would “take administrative actions.”
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, in an interview with Joy Reid of MSNBC’s AM Joy, called for PREPA head Ricardo Ramos to resign over the deal.
Were Puerto Rican officials right to void the contract? Should the investigations continue?
Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!
— Asha Sanaker
(Photo Credit: Department of Defense / Creative Commons)
Written by Countable
I would like to know who the Trump administration thinks the people of Port a Rico are. Obviously he could care less what goes on there especially since the Republican Party put there own electric company there. This administration is so corrupt I just can’t believe it.
Ripping off the most needy and vulnerable to stuff it your buddies' pockets is the epitome of Trump's grand promise: Drain the Swamp, Trumpspeak for we're going to rip you off.
“No bid” awards are generally not permissible in government contract offerings. With a rush to get the ball rolling, there seems to have been no vetting or award oversight. Government contracts often include a Cancellation clause, there may well be no penalty for cancellation. Get the bid out, fast track it with the necessary specs, and vet your vendors with FEMA input and oversight. A limited bid offered only to a FEMA recommended vendor list, will ensure a more valuable vendor response. You’ve already wasted 5 weeks, 15-20 more days after rebid issuance is in line.
CEO Andrew Techmanski has personal ties to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Texas GOP heavy-hitter and Trump campaign donor Joe Colonetta is a primary financier for the company. I think this says volumes as zinke is one of trump's cronies that is doing everything he can to destroy national parks and monuments and have his buddies drill, mine and completely destroy America and sell it for parts.
Definitely something fishy here. The company has 2 employees & had to outsource the work. The American people are being conned at every step under djt.
It was a mistake to cancel the contract. It would have been better to follow the Trump business model, have them do the work and then refuse to pay.
Just canceling the contract is not enough. The fact that it happened at all is a slap in the face of all of struggling Puerto Rican citizens. If it is not investigated would be a wink at a blatant money grab based on cronyism and conflict of interests!!
Yikes! This is what happens when a president would rather watch tv and tweet instead of dealing with crisis.
Good for Puerto Rico! I wish we could cancel contracts that have been handed out here for reasons not in concert with the majority of Americans!
Stupid! Based on PC crap!
Thank New York They’ve Been there and continue to be there for Puerto Rico and aren’t leaving until our fellow citizens have electricity and all the other needed services I hope someone is investigating this fiasco
Good decision! This just shows how all of trump’s goons are benefitting from trump.
Zinnci thought he could use the old crony system to get a company from his home town with only 4 employees a huge contract in Puerto Rico which is already devastated because of the Trump administration. Contracts should have been let over a month ago right after the Island was devastated. Can’t wait for this horrible administration to be in jail.
It seems it wasn’t a no bid contract but that nobody bid except this company and they were doing a good job? It didn’t require a down payment from a bankrupt island and power company - seems like it was doing a good deed?