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Jan 4, 2018

P.U.C. George Price Highway HQ Will Cost Big

On Wednesday, we reported on questionable transactions queried by certified public accountant and auditor Cedric Flowers in respect of the 2016-2017 audit of the Public Utilities Commission. He questioned among other things excessive spending on salary and payments to Commission members totaling four point five million dollars. There were also unauthorized purchases on the Commission’s credit card for items that are not related to the work of the P.U.C.  Chairman John Avery explained these away as having been answered in subsequent communications with Flowers, leading to the complete audit now on the P.U.C.’s desk for review. Tonight, we have further details from the audit records as well as a strange land transaction involving thirteen and a half acres of property intended to become the P.U.C.’s headquarters at mile four on the George Price Highway. The land was bought in 2011 from one Thomas Shaw for a total of nine hundred and fifty thousand dollars, a price considered similar to beachfront property for an area not far from swamp. The Commission paid a further three hundred thousand for filling and clearing just three acres of the property between 2012 and 2016, including to current commissioner Orlando Quan. A contract for more than eighty-seven thousand dollars was granted to one Bernard Santos, but it was canceled and the Arguelles’ brothers firm, International Environments, was approached in February of 2017 to build the headquarters which is ongoing at a cost of two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, of which sixty-five thousand has been paid.  All of 2016, according to the report, was operated without an approved budget.  Among other concerns raised are that commissioners and staff receive write-offs for P.U.C. vehicles from between one thousand five hundred and two thousand dollars despite them not being old enough to sell at such small market values.  Some commissioners are said to have gotten as many as three vehicles in such circumstances. Lastly, several internal control policies and a draft financial order were written and forwarded in 2015, but never reviewed or implemented. In total, administrative expenses rose to three point seven million dollars in 2017 from one point nine million in 2016.

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