• The San Juan Daily Star

Legislator: P3A not watching over PREPA-LUMA contract

Rep. Luis Raúl Torres Cruz

By The Star Staff

Rep. Luis Raúl Torres Cruz charged Tuesday that Public-Private Partnership Authority (P3A) Director Fermín Fontanés Gómez is not supervising the contract between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and its transmission and distribution system operator LUMA Energy.

Torres Cruz, chairman of the House Economic Development, Planning, Telecommunications, Public-Private Partnerships and Energy Committee asked Fontanés to submit to the committee the invoices that LUMA had submitted during the months of June, July and August for the service fee, the shared services agreement, the hours worked by LUMA employees, which are a reimbursable expense for LUMA and are paid with public funds that come from the PREPA customers, including all pass-through expenditures.

Fontanés replied that LUMA acts in accordance with a budget approved by the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau and the Financial Oversight and Management Board with regard to all of the requests, and that contracts and expenses are carried out in accordance with the detail of the items authorized under that budget.

“According to Fontanés, that means that as long as LUMA does not go over what is established in the budget, LUMA can spend public funds at will, without being held accountable,” the lawmaker said in a statement. “This response raises greater doubts, suspicion and indignation.”

Torres Cruz questioned if LUMA could spend the money on illegal expenses.

“What if they could afford, for example, Disney World vacations for their 22 vice presidents under the concept of entertainment allowed in pass-through expenditures, which already has surpassed $600,000 a year?” he asked. In the same way, he said, LUMA can decide to pay for the education of the children of its executives in the most expensive schools in Puerto Rico.

The representative for District 2 added that “this is why Fermín Fontanés Gómez, executive director of the P3A, is breaching his duty to administer the contract with LUMA.”

“His role is clearly established in the contract; he is the administrator, with the duty of ensuring the correct use of public funds managed by LUMA,” Torres Cruz said. “However, Omar Marrero Díaz, who is chairman of the P3A board of directors, and Governor Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, have the legal authority to demand that Fontanés fulfill his duty, or in case of not fulfilling, they have the authority to remove him from his position. Furthermore, let us not forget that the Puerto Rico Penal Code classifies this type of conduct under the crime of Breach of Duty.”

He noted that at a hearing of the Committee on Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives, LUMA CEO Wayne Stensby said it was not necessary to disclose information to the Legislature of Puerto Rico for them to enforce compliance with the LUMA contract, since the company is widely audited by the Public Administration and the Energy Bureau.

“My answer is that there is nothing further from the truth and their statements are a mockery and a lack of respect for the Legislature and the people,” Torres Cruz said.

“Through this response, the Public-Private Partnership Authority confirmed to us that no government entity is monitoring the expenses incurred by LUMA,” he added. “It is important to emphasize that all of LUMA’s expenses are paid with public funds collected from PREPA clients. This is simply and flatly inconceivable and every resident of Puerto Rico has to raise their voice against this abuse.”

“We demand that Governor Pedro Pierluisi order Omar Marrero Díaz and Fermín Fontanés Gómez to fulfill their duty to supervise, with transparency, LUMA and to render accounts to the people of Puerto Rico,” Torres Cruz said. “Let them also breathe down LUMA’s neck!”

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