Puerto Rico utility elects new CEO in line with austerity plans


Puerto Rico’s power utility has elected Jose Ortiz, a former chief executive of the water and sewer utility and one-time chairman of the power company known as Prepa, as CEO.

The leadership change occurred due to the former CEO resigning over a compensation dispute, followed by several key board members.

Ortiz has accepted the position with an annual salary of $250,000, an adequate amount due to the current condition of the utility. This amount is significantly less than the $750,000 promised to his predecessor Rafael Diaz-Granados.

Residents are said to be overjoyed that the utility’s top executives will be sharing the sacrifice to ensure objectives are met.

According to Ortiz, the most important challenge is to elevate credibility, “it’s making people understand that Prepa is going to honour its commitments and that we have drawn a path forward that is coherent and that benefits the people of Puerto Rico.”

The management churn speaks to the current state of the utility. Bankruptcy, turmoil caused by privatisation measures, mismanagement, as well as a lack of effective asset management has caused a lack of reliable service, leaving many residents without power. These challenges were intensified after Hurricane Maria devastated infrastructure, causing monumental restoration plans to be implemented.

The Puerto Rican utility has employed several chief executives over the past year, including Ricardo Ramos who was pushed out amid criticism of power-restoration efforts after Hurricane Maria and Walter Higgins, an executive from Nevada, who could not speak Spanish. Higgins was promised a salary bonus of $450,000 prompting legislation to block exorbitant bonus structures, resulting in the latest resignation of Diaz-Granados.