• The San Juan Daily Star

Professional organization: LUMA employing unqualified engineers

Esther Maritza Zambrana Cruz, president-elect of the Puerto Rico Society of Engineers

By John McPhaul

Esther Maritza Zambrana Cruz, president-elect of the Puerto Rico Society of Engineers, described on Tuesday the feelings of most engineers regarding the reconstruction of the electrical network by LUMA Energy, alleging that 259 engineers working with the energy contractor can’t legally work in Puerto Rico.

“LUMA Energy, a company contracted by the government of Puerto Rico to manage our electrical network, has 492 employees with engineering degrees placed in positions for which it is unknown what functions they specifically perform. Of these, 259 are not registered to practice as engineers in Puerto Rico,” Zambrana Cruz said in a written statement. “It is very easy for the risk that this represents for all of us who receive the service of this company to go unnoticed. Therefore, it would be terrible if the issue is not investigated and full compliance with our laws is ensured in a responsible and diligent manner.”

Zambrana Cruz said the Society of Engineers urges that the issue be thoroughly investigated and that the necessary measures be taken by the competent authorities.

“From our perspective, the core problem is to allow or promote the fallacy that an academic degree in engineering by itself is synonymous with an authorized practice in Law. That is not the case,” she said. “To practice engineering in Puerto Rico there are rigorous requirements for accreditation, professional competence, licensing, and practice highly regulated by the state. A person with only a bachelor’s degree in engineering is simply not authorized by law to perform an engineer-in-training or licensed role. Not even a master’s or doctorate degree in this profession alone meets the requirements for a license or certificate from the Puerto Rico Board of Examiners of Engineers and Surveyors.” “Citizens are the ones who should best understand that the legal requirements established by the state to regulate these professions are for their own protection and are consistent in any territory of the American nation,” Zambrana Cruz continued. “Therefore, it is up to all of us to prevent placing people without proper credentials in positions that were previously occupied by licensed professionals in the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. We cannot reduce the standard to the company that provides the service at present.”

Regarding the risks in the reconstruction of the electrical network, she used as an example the construction codes of Puerto Rico, which, like the national electrical code, are matters whose responsibility is the exclusive domain of licensed engineers, with the corresponding expertise and continuing education.

“Allowing people without proper credentials to work with these codes puts themselves and the citizenry they purport to serve at risk,” Zambrana Cruz said. “Nor is it acceptable for LUMA to present itself with less than half of its technical staff in compliance with the necessary credentials to guarantee the reliability of an essential service for our citizens.”

“It gives us hope that a member of the Legislative Assembly has brought this issue to public discussion. The possible violation of the law by LUMA must be clarified and taken to its ultimate consequences,” she said. “Everyone’s response must be to endorse this effort and avoid situations that put citizen safety and well being at greater risk. In addition, this management must be extended to other public and private corporations in the country if we want to be consistent with all areas of service to our people.”

Zambrana Cruz noted further that “[t]here is no body with greater powers in Law than the Legislative Assembly to request information, investigate and initiate legal proceedings leading to the clarification of violations of this nature.”

“Our exhortation is that our legislative bodies be the ones to act decisively on this matter of such pressing interest,” she said. “Our people have survived too many harsh chapters in the past years. Let’s not sentence them to live with more problems that are totally preventable.”

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