Velázquez on FEMA, PREPA and Whitefish
Washington, DC - Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) released the following statement regarding the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) statement disputing it approved the contract between Whitefish and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA):
“While there may have previously been troubling concerns about PREPA’s selection of an obscure company to restore Puerto Rico’s power, FEMA’s most recent statement makes clear that this contract should never have been signed. Despite claims to the contrary – in black and white in the contract - FEMA has now stated publicly and unequivocally that it never approved the contract. Moreover, the agency is suggesting it could potentially not release funds to pay for work being performed.
“As this fiasco unfolds, three-quarters of Puerto Rico still remains without power. The question now becomes -- what is next? This boondoggle needs to end. Taxpayers need to know their dollars are spent wisely and, even more importantly, power restoration in Puerto Rico must happen quickly. To that end, the contract with Whitefish should be voided. PREPA should move to enter mutual aid agreements with other power authorities to rapidly restore power. If PREPA requires additional authority to take such steps, they should make that clear immediately.
“People in Puerto Rico are suffering and dying. Government waste and abuse should never be acceptable, but these actions are especially irresponsible during a humanitarian crisis when lives are at stake.”
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Language in the contract between PREPA and Whitefish states, “By executing this Contract, PREPA hereby represents and warrants that FEMA has reviewed and approved of this Contract, and confirmed that this Contract is in an acceptable form to qualify for funding from FEMA or other U.S. Governmental agencies.”
FEMA has since issued a statement that reads, in part, “Any language in any contract between PREPA and Whitefish that states FEMA approved that contract is inaccurate.”
In addition, in what is likely a legally unenforceable provision, the contract precludes proper review and oversight of the arrangement between PREPA and Whitefish, stating, “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 and profit elements of the labor rates specified herein.”
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