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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Fiscal board requests data on PREPA rehiring of ex-employees to work on generation fleet

In a letter to the executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) regarding the hiring of former employees to augment the workforce at the authority’s generation fleet, the Financial Oversight and Management Board said it must “ensure that PREPA is complying with its certified Fiscal Plan and Budget.”

By The Star Staff

The Financial Oversight and Management Board has raised questions about the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) rehiring of generation personnel.

PREPA officials reportedly rehired 88 former PREPA employees and announced plans to hire an additional 60 former utility workers. The workers are being hired to fill positions related to the management and operation of PREPA’s generation fleet.

In a letter dated May 9 to PREPA Executive Director Josué Colón Ortiz, oversight board counsel Jaime El Koury said the board supports PREPA’s efforts to ensure it has the necessary personnel and resources to guarantee the safe and reliable operation of the island’s generation fleet.

“Nonetheless, the Oversight Board must also ensure that PREPA is complying with its certified Fiscal Plan and Budget and, should any adjustments be made to address unforeseen circumstances, that such adjustments are made in a manner that promotes fiscal and operational discipline,” El Koury wrote.

To that end, the oversight board asked PREPA how many of the 88 new hires reported held positions in commonwealth agencies or public corporations before being hired by PREPA, and also asked whether the employees in question were former PREPA employees that transferred to other government agencies or retired from PREPA in connection with LUMA’s takeover of PREPA’s transmission and distribution (T&D) system.

When LUMA took over PREPA’s T&D system in 2021 after a one-year transition period, many PREPA workers chose to move to other commonwealth agencies to avoid losing retirement benefits in a process that was laden with errors.

“What is the purpose of such a significant staffing increase for generation?” the oversight board asked. “Will former employees currently in [commonwealth government] positions be eligible for employment with PREPA going forward?”

The board also asked Colón Ortiz to provide information on the workers’ status of employment with PREPA and their benefits. It also asked for labor costs related to the new employees, the latest headcount, and whether the positions filled are open positions or newly created ones.

“As stated in the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Certified Budget for PREPA, PREPA must not incur spending above the certified amounts and must receive approval from the Oversight Board for any reprogramming of resources,” El Koury wrote. “Additionally, all personnel transfers from CW [commonwealth] entities must be accurately registered with the Oversight Board. PREPA should provide a response to this letter by no later than May 18th, 2022.”

The decision to rehire PREPA workers comes at a time when PREPA’s generation legacy assets are in the process of being put under private management in deals currently being negotiated by the Public-Private Partnerships Authority. The oversight board recently expressed concerns about delays in the process to reorganize PREPA or break it into several entities as part of the fiscal plan.

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