November 6, 2017 / 4:09 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Puerto Rico oversight board, PREPA to testify at House hearing Tuesday

(Adds details and background)

WASHINGTON, Nov 6 (Reuters) - A powerful U.S. House of Representatives committee is set on Tuesday to examine tensions between Puerto Rico and the oversight board in charge of managing the island’s finances in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

The House Natural Resources committee is looking at whether the oversight board needs additional tools to help the U.S. territory recover from the devastation, and said it is concerned about contracts issued for rebuilding its power grid.

“Already, questionable contracts have occurred demanding both congressional and federal oversight,” the committee said in a memo on the hearing, citing a $300 million contract with small Montana firm Whitefish Energy Holdings.

“Contracts of a certain magnitude need to be properly vetted by responsible actors through a transparent and accountable process, rather than utility managers in an ill-advised moment of desperation,” the committee said.

Lawmakers are slated to hear from Natalie Jaresko, the executive director of the oversight board, Noel Zamot, a retired Air Force colonel tapped by the board to oversee the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, and Ricardo Ramos, the executive director of PREPA.

The Puerto Rico government has vowed to fight Zamot’s appointment in court.

Two mayors are also slated to testify: San Juan’s Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has been an outspoken critic of federal recovery efforts, and Angel Perez Otero of Guaynabo, a San Juan suburb visited by President Donald Trump in October. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Richard Cowan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)

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