Oct 27, 2017

A breakdown of the $300M Whitefish contract for Puerto Rico

Whitefish Energy workers in Puerto Rico. Photo: Ramon Espinosa / AP

A small company in Montana was given a $300 million contract to help Puerto Rico rebuild its electrical grid after Hurricane Maria, and now details of that project have been revealed, thanks to a leaked copy of the contract (which has since been deleted).

The massive contract to Whitefish, which only had two full-time employees when Maria made landfall, was called "unusual" by The Washington Post — the company's largest project before this was a $1.3 million contract in Arizona. FEMA said it had no role in the contract signing despite the fact that the most recent version of the contract said FEMA had "reviewed and approved" it, per The Hill.

The Daily Beast's Ken Klippenstein tweeted a link to the contract before it was taken down. He highlighted some of the notable details in the agreement:

  • Legal: The contract states, "In no event shall [government bodies] have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements" and that the Puerto Rican government "waives any claim against Contractor related to delayed completion of work."
  • Financial: Whitefish said it would hire short-term workers to help with the project. The contract suggests each person will receive $332.41 for accommodations each day, as well as $79.82 for food, per person each day.
  • More: Part of the $300 million includes airlift travel, Klippenstein pointed out — $20,277 for Chinook helicopter airlift; $15,993 for S61 helicopter airlift; and $3,969 for a passenger helicopter.
  • FEMA said it "has significant concerns with how PREPA (the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority) procured" the contract and that it is gathering more information about the contract and the contracting process from PREPA and its legal counsel.

Why it matters: The "unusual" Whitefish contract has drawn attention from Congress. Now that a copy has been leaked, some in Congress are urging the House Oversight Committee to investigate the contract, flagging "sweetheart contracts and backroom deals," Klippenstein noted on Twitter.

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