Following news that the Montana-based company Whitefish Energy was rewarded a "shady" $300 million contract to restore Puerto Rico's crippled electrical grid and as USA officials look to install an emergency manager to direct the island's hurricane relief efforts, advocacy groups are urgently warning that authority is being stripped from local elected officials and placed in the hands of "disaster capitalists" looking to profit from the territory's recovery at the expense of the Puerto Rican people.
And it contained some startling terms.
"In no event shall PREPA, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the FEMA administrator, the Comptroller General of the United States or any other authorized representatives have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements", according to the document, published by several media outlets, whose authenticity - including costs listed - was confirmed by Democratic staffers for the Natural Resources Committee.
The agreement also states that the Puerto Rican government "waives any claim against [Whitefish] related to delayed completion of work".
The contract was causing alarm for some in the days that preceded its release.
Founded in 2015, Whitefish - which had just two full-time employees when the contract was signed - says it has mobilized a team of almost 300 subcontractors in Puerto Rico, with more on the way.
This is the largest contract awarded to any company for relief efforts on the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
"Congress needs to understand why the Whitefish contract was awarded and whether other, more cost-effective options were available", said Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva from Arizona, in a statement Tuesday. Of note is that Zinke happened to call Murkowski earlier this year and threaten to withhold funding for Alaska if she did not vote in favor of the Republican healthcare bill, which she did not.
At least 49 people have died in Puerto Rico, with dozens more missing.
Meanwhile, top Democrats on both the Energy and Finance committees requested that the Government Accountability Office investigate the matter.
The House is also looking into the ordeal.
During a news conference Thursday, Rosselló said he was expecting an audit into Whitefish's $300 million contract.
Whitefish and PREPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. As the Department of Homeland Security analyzes the $300 million contract, the document has hit the web and drawn even more controversy. "I was surprised that such a small company from Montana got the contract". Zinke met with President Donald Trump on Friday morning, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump did ask Zinke about the contract, to which Zinke denied involvement. And, Whitefish founder Andy Techmanski has noted that his family knows Mr Zinke.
In defense of the contract with Whitefish, Puerto Rico officials have said the company was willing to work without a down payment, which made it more attractive to the debt-ridden island. That means that efforts to rebuild Puerto Rico's electricity grid, which was devastated by the landfall of Hurricane Maria over a month ago, could be shrouded in secrecy. ". everyone wants to say that there is a conspiracy theory".
"Based on initial review and information from [Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority], FEMA has significant concerns with how PREPA procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable", FEMA wrote in a statement distancing the agency from the contracting process.