Consumer rep: Public sector debts to PREPA must be public info

By John McPhaul

Tomás Torres Placa, the consumer interest representative to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) governing board, requested Monday that PREPA make public, no later than Jan. 29 and permanently on the utility’s website, the updated list of all the debts owed to PREPA by each government agency and public corporation.

“During meetings of the Governing Board in October 2020, I requested that PREPA management publish on the Public Corporation’s website a permanent list of all updated debts of each government agency and entity,” Torres Placa said in a written statement. “To date, this information has not been officially published by PREPA, so I demand that it be made public immediately.”

Torres Placa added that as a result of the incidents involving a customer in the Fajardo Commercial Office last August, he requested that PREPA management publish, permanently on the PREPA website, metrics regarding the treatment and management of customers.

This includes the date and time a customer was attended to (in person or by phone), the number of clients with billing problems, and the number of clients with safety problems related to poles and wiring.

According to PREPA data, as of November 2020 the past-due billing debt for public corporations amounts to $233 million, $32.2 million for government agencies, $11.3 million for the federal government and $34.7 million for municipalities. Those debts total $311.2 million, which represents an impact on customers of about 2 cents per KwH (about 11 percent of the current rate) in an annual billing cycle.

“PREPA’s management must diligently demand all past due billing, especially from each agency, entity and public corporation, due to its high impact on the consumer’s bill, and establish the necessary mechanisms for the recovery of these amounts,” Torres Placa said. “Transparency, disclosure of information and citizen participation are the best tools for healthy public administration. To inhibit consumers and the general public from having clear and precise information on the operation of a public entity is to open the doors to mismanagement to the detriment of the public interest.”