More than 30 days after Maria, Puerto Rico remains in the dark

Posted on November 12, 2017

Puerto Rico’s power grid continues to be almost fully turned off, as efforts to restore the service have been now frustrated by a recent controversy on how a $300 million contract was awarded to a company with just two full-time employees.


Last Friday, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) commented that it had “significant concerns” on how the bidding process was carried to end up in a contract between Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and a company from Montana called Whitefish.


The matter looks a little bit obscure indeed; as such large contracts are usually handed out to big companies within the industry with substantial infrastructure and experience. Additionally, critics are pointing the fact that in this kind of crisis, states usually ask companies to aid each other to work faster and get things up and running quickly.


Whitefish, a small contractor headed by its CEO Andy Techmanski, was apparently the only viable option there was when things went ‘south’ on the island. On one side, PREPA’s $9-billion-sized bankruptcy is almost as appealing as a ‘beware, mad dog’ sign for companies who are fit to participate in the bidding process; and secondly, time is of the essence in these situations and as Techmanski puts it “All I can say is, we took the call and we’re here”.


In an interview with CNN, a spokesman for the company said that they were the only ones interested in doing business with PREPA when nobody else wanted.


Nevertheless, not even a Category 4 hurricane gives you the power to sign off a $300 million contract without following proper procedure.


Ricardo Ramos, the CEO of PREPA said in this regard that “We have a humanitarian crisis here and we have to move fast” but apparently, the state’s Governor Ricardo Rosello doesn’t share Ramos’ view as he said in a statement to reporters yesterday that he asked the government and agency authorities to “immediately activate the clause to cancel the contract to Whitefish Energy”.


Meanwhile, the island remains unpowered and people probably care less about who wins the contract, as longs as they have electricity. A struggle between business ethics and timing is taking place and every minute counts to avoid further damages to the population.


It remains uncertain how long it will take to get Puerto Rico’s power back on. But that’s far from being our situation at where we guarantee 60-minute approvals and funding within 72 hours.


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