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FEMA probes $300M no-bid contract to Team Trump-linked company

FEMA probes $300M no-bid contract to Team Trump-linked company

The company, Whitefish Energy, said last week that it had signed a $300 million contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to fix and reconstruct large portions of the island's electrical infrastructure.

"Based on initial review and information from PREPA, FEMA has significant concerns with how PREPA procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable", the agency said, adding that applicants for FEMA Public Assistance (such as PREPA) that don't follow its procurement guidelines risk not being reimbursed for their disaster costs.

When Ruhle noted that other companies were interested in the contract, Luce acknowledged that just one other company had expressed interest in the bid when Whitefish traveled to Puerto Rico.

PREPA may award other contracts for additional work, and Whitefish must cooperate with the other contractors.

The tiny utility company is based in Whitefish, Montana, which also happens to be the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Zinke knows Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski "because they both live in a small town where everyone knows everyone", a spokeswoman said.

In addition, Zinke's son briefly worked for Whitefish on a project during one summer.

Ramos, the head of PREPA, told The Washington Post that he was "very comfortable with any investigation" by Congress, and that he was happy with Whitefish's work so far.

Democratic staffers for the Natural Resources Committee separately confirmed the authenticity of the contract and prices under the contract published by Spanish-language media outlet Noticel, according to one of the aides.

The homeland security panel will hold a hearing on the issue next week and said officials should be ready to answer tough questions, the senator said.

Two House committees have launched investigations into the deal, backed by Congresspeople on both sides of the aisle, and the Department of Homeland Security is conducting a review of the deal.

Lights out. That's how it is for most of Puerto Rico. The letter also stated that a Whitefish financial backer, HBC Investments, "was founded by Mr. Joe Colonnetta, a major contributor to President Trump's campaign, the Republican National Committee, and many other Republican candidates". John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

In an earlier interview with Yahoo News, the mayor had called the multimillion dollar contract awarded to Whitefish "alarming" and pressed for the contract to be canceled immediately.

In response, Whitefish spokesman Chris Chiames posted a statement on Twitter calling Yulin Cruz's comments "misplaced".

NBC Montana reported earlier this month that Whitefish sought help from Zinke in getting personnel to Puerto Rico.

The bankrupt utility, which is $9 billion in debt, could have requested aid after Maria through the American Public Power Association, a network that provides help to other utilities during widespread power outages.

If Zamot does get the job, he will have to juggle the intertwined demands of upgrading Puerto Rico's electrical system and restoring power as quickly as possible to parts of the island that are still without it.

But the industry plan may conflict with the goals of the federal control board that oversees Puerto Rico's troubled finances. "A GAO spokesman said the agency has received the letter and is reviewing the request".

About one million people do not have clean water and millions are without power weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the US territory. Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, wrote to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority on Thursday requesting documents on this contact, as well as information about its normal contracting procedures.

The contract permits audits, except regarding "the cost and profit elements" of its labor rates - likely a core interest of any auditor.

Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rossello, has also defended the contract. "If anyone did anything illegal, let them fry in jail".

"There are some legitimate claims", Rosario said.

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