Puerto Rico new Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced ordered not to sign the contract between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and Stantec, totaling $450,000, for work related to rebuilding the power grid after Hurricane María.
Vázquez Garced made it clear that the contract will not be signed until all contracts evaluation is completed.
The governor said in written statements that transparency is a vital element for this administration. I have been in communication with the executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, Jose Ortíz, and tomorrow (today) we will hold a meeting in order to know the details and needs for that contract, so that they could reach a responsible decision according to the wellbeing of the people of Puerto Rico.
As El Nuevo Día reported yesterday, PREPA plans to hire Stantec, an engineering company, to work on the estimates and scope of recovery projects until September 30. The deadline for submitting these documents to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is October 6.
"We are evaluating all government contracts, no exception. There is no room in this administration for unreasonable expenses and we will watch over the fiscal health of our people," said the governor.
Vázquez Garced was sworn in as governor last Wednesday and is still evaluating candidates to fill vacancies in her cabinet, which could be led by former Comptroller Manuel Díaz Saldaña.
Díaz Saldaña did not confirm nor reject yesterday being evaluated or having been offered the position of Chief of Staff.
"I can neither confirm nor deny it, as the feds usually say," Díaz Saldaña told El Nuevo Día.
Meanwhile, La Fortaleza's press office released a brief statement on the appointment process in the cabinet and the governor´s team.
"The governor is in the process of evaluating candidates for the different positions that are currently vacant, and in the same way for her team," said La Fortaleza Press Deputy Secretary, Michelle de la Cruz Valencia.
Sources indicated that Frances Rodríguez, former governor Rosselló González's press director and communication advisor Migdalia Rivera, and Marisol Blasco, who was Vázquez Garced's assistant while she was Women's Rights Advocate, are collaborating with the governor.
Efforts to contact Rodríguez and Blasco didn't work, meanwhile, Rivera confirmed that she has spoken with Vázquez Garced.
"She is a friend of mine, that´s public. I was helping her in her case (when she faced accusations), a personal collaboration. Later I did some work for her at the communications office in Justice," Rivera said.
"Yes, she called me once or twice during the confirmation and swearing-in process,but other than that, we haven't had any further communication. If she asks me for help and advice, she will always have it," she said.
Regarding bills for the governor's consideration, De la Cruz Valencia said former Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares addressed everything.
"They were approved or vetoed by the former governor. At the moment, the governor has not received all the approved measures. Once they arrived, they will be evaluated," said De la Cruz Valencia.
In addition to the Chief of Staff position, the Secretary of State remains vacant.
There are other important appointments in Vázquez Garced´s hands, such as the vacancy left by Supreme Court Associate Justice Anabelle Rodríguez, and the positions of Citizen's Advocate, director of the Office of Government Ethics, director of the Office of the Panel of the Special Independent Prosecutor, and the Comptroller's Office.
These appointments and those of some of the members of the Vázquez's cabinet could trigger a controversy between the governor and the Legislature since most of them require the endorsement of the legislative branch, said four New Progressive Party (PNP) members who asked to remain anonymous.
"She is not negotiating anything," a source said.
Sources said the controversy between the governor and the PNP leadership affects the party, which suspended the board meeting scheduled for last week.
Right now, the meeting has not been rescheduled, which would be the first meeting after Rosselló Nevares' resignation from the party presidency.
The PNP legislative majority, headed by Carlos "Johnny" Méndez and Thomas Rivera Schatz, as well as the mayors, supported Washington Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González to become Secretary of State and then governor.
For his part, Pedro Pierluisi, after leaving La Fortaleza, suggested –in a message on social media- his intention to run for governor in 2020. Pierluisi left the position of governor after an adverse the Supreme Court ruling following a lawsuit filed by the Senate.
"Everything affects us directly. She came in (to the governorship) because we (the PNP) won," said one of the sources.
Those interviewed admitted that in this fight against Vázquez Garced, the greatest loss is for elected PNP officials.
"She was not elected nor does she want to run for reelection, lawmakers and mayors, do," said a source, adding that the government could keep working without the intervention of the Legislative Assembly.
Vázquez Garced - as part of her pending tasks - must prepare a budget (2020-21) and appoint a representative to the Oversight Board. Although the budget must be approved by the Legislature, the Board has taken up that task for the last two years.