Published: Mon, October 30, 2017
Health Care | By Alberto Manning

Puerto Rico's governor wants controversial $300 million Whitefish contract canceled

Puerto Rico's governor wants controversial $300 million Whitefish contract canceled

Whitefish Energy, which had just two employees the day Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, now has about 325 people working on restringing transmission lines, clearing debris and erecting fallen poles.

Rossello said that at least $8 million has been paid to Whitefish so far, but "there can not be any kind of distraction that alters the commitment to restore electrical power as soon as possible in Puerto Rico".

"Usually after huge power outages, electric companies arrange mutual aid agreements with utilities elsewhere to bring in workers to help restore power. Any attempts by the dishonest media or political operatives to tie me to awarding or influencing any contract involving Whitefish are completely baseless".

Neither Whitefish nor power company officials immediately returned calls for comment. The statement went on to say, "The decision to award a contract to Whitefish Energy was made exclusively by PREPA". The government already paid Whitefish $8 million and does not expect the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse that sum, the sources said. The Puerto Rican government admitted that 911 people had died of "natural causes" after the storm.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is criticizing news reports about a $300 million, no-bid contract to a tiny Montana company.

Separately, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said they would travel to the island on Saturday to observe recovery efforts.

Ricardo Rosselló talks to students at Julio Selles Sola Elementary School during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday.

The White House and FEMA, the federal disaster management agency, said on Friday they had nothing to do with hiring Whitefish Energy to restore power in the US commonwealth.

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The secretary says in a statement that he had absolutely nothing to do with Whitefish Energy receiving a contract in Puerto Rico to help restore the US territory's power grid.

During a news conference Thursday, Rosselló said he was expecting an audit into Whitefish's $300 million contract.

Members of Congress have called for an investigation into the contract.

Earlier in the week, the department also released a statement denying Zinke played a role and saying he only knows Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanskis "because they both live in a small town where everyone knows everyone".

The White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) distanced themselves from the deal last week.

A 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.

On Friday, top Democrats from that panel and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sent a letter requesting the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general launch an investigation.

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