US Probes Possible Corruption in Puerto Rico Power Agency

U.S. Congressmen urged the head of the Puerto Rico power agency to respond to allegations that his employees are taking bribes to restore power in the U.S. territory still recovering from Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Puerto Rico PowerWorkers repairing damaged power lines in Puerto Rico (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Defense)Nearly six months after the hurricanes ravaged the island, killing dozens and devastating the island’s infrastructure, over 150,000 Puerto Ricans still have no power.

In a letter published on Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Natural Resources listed several allegations including that PREPA officials accepted bribes of US$ 5,000 as well as tickets worth $1,000 each, “to restore power to San Juan area exotic dance clubs ahead of the scheduled restoration timeline.”

This is on top of other allegations made in the letter of officials restoring power to their homes before more critical places like San Juan’s Rio Piedras Medical Center and the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.

“In addition to betraying the public’s trust, improper, out-of-sequence power restoration has been associated with at least two fires and complicates scheduled power restoration operations,” the letter said.

PREPA officials are also accused of delaying needed materials to utility crews including the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. In response to questions about some of this materials missing, the committee found PREPA’s explanations insufficient and contradictory.

The Committee requested documentation of PREPA’s investigations into the alleged corruption and mismanagement as well as the current procedures in place for investigating such practices to be submitted by 5 p.m. March 26.

The aforementioned is not PREPA’s first connection to possible shady practices after the 2017 hurricane season. The utility company’s contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings, a small Montana-based outfit hired to assist in rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid, was scrutinized for its expensive price tag.