Whitefish Energy’s contract to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid was just leaked. It contains a number of ridiculous, unenforceable, and exploitative demands on the hurricane-ravaged island.
From the moment it was announced that Whitefish Energy had won a no-bid contract to rebuild Puerto Rico’s destroyed power grid, the decision raised eyebrows.
Whitefish — a tiny Montana firm based in the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and financed by a major Trump donor — is bilking Puerto Rico for $300 million and overcharging for contractors. The company made ugly threats against the San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz when she questioned the company’s lack of transparency.
But it turns out the Whitefish deal is far, far worse than anyone thought. A copy of the contract between Whitefish and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has been leaked, exposing several new details that were previously unknown.
For one thing, the document states that “PREPA waives any claim against Contractor related to delayed completion of the work.” So if Whitefish does not deliver on time, no matter the reason, the utility has no recourse to do anything.
Even more ridiculous, while Article 59 entitles government officials to copies of Whitefish’s books and records for general auditing purposes, it also states:
In no event shall PREPA, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the FEMA administrator, the Comptroller General of the United States, or any of their authorized representatives have the right to audit or review the cost or profit elements of the labor rates specified therein.
In other words, auditors are not allowed to ask about the rates Whitefish charges.
And to be clear, that would likely be the first question any auditor would ask about this contract. Whitefish is giving each employee and subcontractor over $300 per hour, plus a per diem of $332 for hotels and $80 for meals.
Whitefish’s attempts to warn off auditors are having the opposite effect, with authorities scrambling to investigate how this contract was ever signed and what Whitefish is doing with the money.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello has opened an investigation, warning there will be “hell to pay” if wrongdoing is found. The Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security is now getting involved too, as is the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Even in an era when Donald Trump is in the Oval Office, nakedly exploiting an American island ruined by a natural disaster is enough to trigger public outrage. Whitefish must be held to account, and Puerto Rico must be given a fair deal.