(Adds Democrats seeking investigation)
WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Questions over a multi-million dollar contract between Puerto Rico's power utility and a small Montana firm to repair storm damage grew on Friday as federal emergency officials raised "significant concerns" about the deal and Democratic lawmakers requested an investigation.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement that after its initial review it "has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable" under the agreement between Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and Whitefish Energy Holdings.
The $300 million contract between PREPA and Whitefish, a two-year old firm with just two full-time employees, was awarded without a competitive bidding process, according to media reports.
Meanwhile, a growing number of U.S. lawmakers were raising questions.
On Thursday, Representative Rob Bishop, who chairs the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, set a Nov. 2 deadline for PREPA to provide information related to the contract.
On Friday, Representative Raul Grijalva, the senior Democrat on Bishop's panel, and Representative Peter DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, asked the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general to investigate how the contract was executed as well as its terms.
"We also request that you investigate whether there was any political impetus behind the contract," Grijalva and DeFazio wrote to Inspector General John Roth.
They noted that Whitefish is headquartered in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown and that Zinke's son once worked for Whitefish. The letter also stated that a Whitefish financial backer, HBC Investments, "was founded by Mr. Joe Colonnetta, a major contributor to President Trump's campaign, the Republican National Committee, and many other Republican candidates."
A copy of the contract surfaced online Thursday night, raising more questions, particularly over language blocking oversight of costs and profits.
"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 the document posted by a Daily Beast reporter.
Democratic staffers for the Natural Resources Committee separately confirmed the authenticity of the contract and prices under the contract published by Spanish-language media outlet Noticel, according to one of the aides.
Costs listed for hourly wages ranged in the hundreds of dollars and daily per diems of more than $330 for accommodations and nearly $80 for food, according to the "bid schedule" published by the outlet. The document put the cost of one-way airline flights for employees at $1,000.
A spokesman for Whitefish defended the deal and said the company welcomed an audit of its work.
"The contract was done in good faith with PREPA" and "speaks for itself," Whitefish spokesman Ken Luce told MSNBC in an interview, adding: "There's nothing there."
Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rossello, has also defended the contract. Despite the contract language, however, Rossello had ordered an audit and has said he expects initial results to be released later on Friday, NBC News reported.
Representatives of PREPA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
About one million people do not have clean water and millions are without power weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the U.S. territory.
At least 49 people have died in Puerto Rico, with dozens more missing. The hurricane did extensive damage to the islands power grid, destroying homes, roads and other vital infrastructure.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Richard Cowan; additional reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Nicholas Brown; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Dan Grebler)