Breakers Where the General Blackout Happened Were To Be Replaced in December 2021 by PREPA

The area in the switchyard where the Central Costa Sur fire occurred, which caused the general blackout last Wednesday, should have been renovated four months ago, in December 2021, according to the original infrastructure plan through which the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) will access $10.7 billion in federal recovery funds. But, after LUMA’s arrival in June 2021, as operator of the transmission and distribution system, the processes were delayed. The completion date for the repairs at the plant was postponed to February 2023, according to documents from the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), that the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) reviewed. 

Avería en breaker de salida de Unidad #5 de Costa Sur al 230kv ocasionó la salida de las unidades 5 y 6 de la Central. El sistema de protección del sistema eléctrico sacó de servicio el resto de las unidades que estaban generando.— Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica (@AEEONLINE) April 7, 2022

The recovery work in Costa Sur, Guayanilla, included replacing four switches of the 230-kilowatt transmission lines because they have already completed their useful life and are obsolete.

Teachers Are Drowning in Bureaucracy and Bad Planning 

The teacher prep period time is up. The bell rang and the students started coming into the classroom. The 50 minutes of preparation were spent calling parents who had not followed up on their children’s performance in school and completing referrals to the social worker. Those 50 minutes are the time teachers have available each day, in theory, to organize their class material, upload information about their students to the Department of Education’s (DE) digital archives, or get other tasks done. But the educator — who prefers not to identify herself — teaches five groups; at least 125 students in total.

School’s Budget Data Still Unclear Four Years After Educational Reform

The Department of Education (DE) officially allocates school budgets considering the size of enrollment, the school community’s poverty level, the school’s academic program and students needs, as well as compliance with the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). But most school principals don’t understand the Department’s process for setting the cost per student. This is the conclusion from the interviews that the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) conducted with a dozen school directors. If you look up Vimenti Alliance School’s cost per student on the DE School Profile webpage for 2020, it says $6,112. If you ask the Department’s Budget Office what the cost per student is for that same school for the same year, they’ll tell you it’s $3,241.

Few Changes Made in Puerto Rico to Access Health Information and Services in a Hurricane

The Department of Health, responsible for inspecting and approving the emergency evacuation plans of all the island’s hospitals, only keeps them for the three hospitals that it runs. The agency’s Deputy Secretary’s Office for the Regulation and Accreditation of Health Facilities (SARAFS, in Spanish) does not keep a copy of the evacuation plans that it is supposed to have previously evaluated, and that could mean the difference between life and death for patients and employees. The information surfaced as part of a lawsuit in which the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) asked the DH for several documents and protocols related to emergency events. “As part of the inspections, SARAFS personnel check that said plans comply with all the established requirements. However, a physical copy, on paper, digital or in any other way stored in an electronic device(s) of these plans is not delivered to SARAFS personnel, nor is it received by said personnel, nor is it retained in the record of the facilities that work in the SARAFS, so the Department of Health does not have them,” according to the certification that the DH submitted to the San Juan Superior Court as part of the case.

Puerto Rico’s Government has Problems Complying With its Transparency and Open Data Laws

More than two years ago, laws were passed to ensure the availability of specific data generated by public agencies and to establish procedures to access government information. The Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) found that the government has appointed 98% of the Public Records Officers and only 36% of the Data Officers in the agencies, while the contact information for the majority of these appointed officials has not been made available to the public. Approximately 20% of both types of officers’ appointments occurred after the CPI sent public information requests in January. In an exercise to oversee the implementation of Act 122 of 2019, “Puerto Rico Open Government Data Act,” and Act 141 of 2019, “Transparency and Expedited Procedure for Public Records Access Act,” the CPI sent information requests on the compliance of these statutes to La Fortaleza (the Governor’s Office), the Office of Management and Budget (OGP, in Spanish), and the Puerto Rico Innovation and Technology Services (PRITS). In light of the information received in response to these requests, it is clear that there is duplicity, and even confusion, with regards to the appointments of Public Records Officers and Data Officers.

Expensive Evaluation to ‘Transform’ University of Puerto Rico’s Medical Sciences Campus

Since Mayda Velasco Bonilla became chairwoman of the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) Governing Board (JG, in Spanish) in August 2021, the members have never voted to approve the contracts that add up to $1.2 million so far this fiscal year to cover the operations of the Office of Institutional Transformation (OTI, in Spanish), in charge of implementing the institution’s Fiscal Plan. The JG’s regulations establish that said contracts must be approved by its members, who were not consulted about the selection of the External Collaborators Committee members that evaluate the operations of the Medical Sciences Campus (RCM, in Spanish). The Committee was created to “identify deficiencies and areas of opportunity in the RCM,” as stated in a contract between the Governing Board and Cedrela Consulting Group, a company that would analyze the Committee members’ recommendations. 

Cedrela and Bluhaus Capital were the first companies to benefit from OTI contracts. Before being hired by the JG for $350,000, Bluhaus had contracts with the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (AAFAF, in Spanish) to develop the UPR’s Fiscal Plan and structural reforms, while the JG contracted Cedrela for $50,400 to advise in managing projects that could affect the Plan. The members of the External Collaborators Committee were chosen by Velasco Bonilla, who informed the JG about the only two in-person meetings that the group had had, which have cost the UPR $60,884.