The adage about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely has been heard from time immemorial. This is, unfortunately, a story about power corrupting but zero power corrupting absolutely. Does it sound strange? If so continue reading to understand how zero power is making a foray into the world of corruption.
Zero Power Makes Its Presence Felt In Puerto Rico
Hurricane Maria made a landfall in Puerto Rico on September 18, 2017. The category 5 hurricane was one of the deadliest of the 2017 hurricane season in the Atlantic. Hurricane Maria caused damages of around $100 billion and claimed a position just behind Hurricane Katrina and hurricane Harvey in terms of damages. However, the hurricane also left half 1 million people with zero power in their homes and businesses leaving the sole provider of electricity in the region PREPA the challenging task of restoring services. This was perhaps the beginning of the time when the problem of zero power began corrupting the employees of the electricity provider.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority decided to suspend three employees without payment of wages as it began investigations into 25 cases of possible corruption after the devastating hurricane had left behind a tale of disaster. The employees concerned are being accused of demanding money to rectify the problem of zero power which was being experienced by homes and businesses. Approximately 500,000 homes and businesses are currently facing the problem of zero power despite it being four months after hurricane Maria made landfall.
The Problem of Zero Power Is Hurting People Immensely
A newspaper based in San Juan reported that the employees being investigated for the restoration of power to homes and businesses were demanding as high as $5000 for a reconnection. The PREPA has refused to provide any details about the case despite the nature of the probes being conducted. They are however encouraging witnesses to volunteer information whenever these incidents occur. They have also commented that any complicity discovered in corruption will be dealt with criminally.
It was known to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority that people were facing problems with zero power ever since November 2017 when complaints initially started filtering in just two months after the landfall of hurricane Maria. They received three complaints and the employees involved were suspended from work in the city of Ponce which is a major hub in the south of Puerto Rico. This was just the beginning of a series of complaints all related to the problem concerning zero power in homes and businesses.
The disclosure of the corruption is being made less than a week after officials discovered a warehouse of PREPA that had been overlooked and contained materials that were needed to recover from the problem. However, a spokesperson for the organization mentioned that the corruption cases had nothing to do with the warehouse.
The matters concerning zero power gained additional support when officials from the U.S. Army Corp.’s of engineers commented that the warehouse was not mentioned on the computer inventories of the electricity authority. It looks like a cover-up operation was already underway by the time the statement was made because spokespersons from the electricity department said that the materials in the warehouse had been acquired for projects of capital improvement and also contained surplus supplies which were outdated from earlier projects along with recycled parts.
José Roman Morales the president of the energy commission of Puerto Rico has argued that mismanagement by the electricity department has made the energy infrastructure of the island susceptible to the devastation of the kind heaped upon the region by hurricane Maria. The electricity department has also been facing financial woes including a debt problem amounting to $8.9 billion and were, therefore, withholding maintenance operations even when they were simple and preventing system upgrades. The electric power authority had no finances and was therefore only functioning in a reactive manner. Even when confronted with aging equipment the power authority couldn’t address the problem unless the equipment stopped functioning. Under the circumstances, it comes as no surprise that employees of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority concluded it was an opportune moment to make hay when the sun shines and decided to tax people and businesses who were confronting the problem of zero power a sum of money for restorations.
These are modern times and technological advances have changed a number of things. Corruption, however, maintains its position regardless of whether people have power or are facing a problem of zero power.