New P3 Authority Board members represent public interest
By The Star Staff
The Public-Private Partnership Authority (P3A) board has two new members representing the public interest in a move that could have an impact on the fate of future P3s, including the one that seeks companies to manage and operate the generation assets of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).
The new board members are former Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Eduardo Ferrer Ríos and Liza Ortiz Camacho, a lawyer who was the director of the political campaign for former PDP gubernatorial candidate David Bernier. At deadline, neither Ferrer Ríos nor Ortiz Camacho had answered STAR requests for comments made via social media. They are part of a group of five board members who will decide whether or not to move P3 projects forward.
Their selection, meanwhile, took place under wraps and without public notification. Both new members have been on the job for several months.
The P3A board comprises five members that include the head of the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, the Treasury secretary, the Planning Board chairman, and the two members representing public interest, who are chosen by the leaders of the Legislature and approved by the governor, according to the 2009 Public-Private Partnership Act.
The two public interest members are chosen for a period of four years. Ferrer Ríos, who is the brother of the late PDP President Héctor Ferrer Ríos, was elected to the island House of Representatives in 2012 but resigned a year later. Ortiz Camacho also resigned as Bernier’s campaign manager.
The votes of the two public interest officials are needed for the approval of P3 contracts. The P3A has several priority P3s: a $400 million contract to replace water meters, a $70 million student housing complex at University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez Campus, a call center for the Treasury Department, the modernization and operation of the nine regional airports, and a project to modernize and manage digital telecommunications infrastructure for the Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Authority.
The P3A has said it intends to unveil in December the companies that will manage and operate power plants. That contract needs to obtain approval from both the P3A and PREPA boards.
The P3A has also been criticized for its deficient oversight of the contract with LUMA Energy, the private operator of PREPA’s transmission and distribution system.
The two public interest members have close links to the PDP, whose House majority seeks to monitor the LUMA Energy contract more closely. The House sued LUMA Energy recently to obtain information about salaries and payroll, among other information. LUMA also declined to provide information to the U.S. House of Representatives and only did so after threats by members of Congress that they would withhold federal funds for PREPA’s reconstruction.
The P3A has yet to post on its website its report on the performance of LUMA Energy. The most recent public monthly report to be found on the website is from May 2021.