Gov't takes flak over untendered eHealth, IBM deal
TORONTO - The Liberal government has a double standard when it comes to holding bureaucrats and cabinet ministers accountable for breaking the rules on expenses accounts and untendered contracts, the New Democrats said Thursday.
At issue is a $30 million untendered contract given to IBM for a new computer system at eHealth Ontario that was approved by a powerful committee of the Liberal cabinet.
The government was quick to get rid of executives at eHealth for handing out $16 million in untendered contracts, replacing CEO Sarah Kramer and board chair Alan Hudson, and it fired the CEO of Ontario Lottery and Gaming for expense abuses, said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
"There's no doubt (Kramer) was pressured out the door. The premier should be firing some of his cabinet ministers in the same vein," said Horwath.
"How many cabinet ministers were around the table shoving that $30 million sole-source contract out the door? It's a double standard and it's appalling they don't recognize it."
Horwath wondered why the Liberals reacted to scandals at OLG and eHealth by getting rid of top bureaucrats, but have yet to hold a single cabinet minister accountable for the problems.
There's evidence now that cabinet ministers did exactly the same thing as Kramer and approved an untendered, multi-million dollar contract for IBM, said Horwath.
"They were certainly happy to point fingers in terms of that behaviour and yet they don't point fingers at themselves when they undertake the exact same kinds of behaviour at the management board table," she said.
The Progressive Conservatives said the Liberals clearly do not want to see any cabinet ministers held accountable for breaking the rules.
"The government was ready to turn a blind eye to some of these breaches of policies and procedures and they only say they're sorry when they are found out and then the change the policies," said Opposition critic Christine Elliott.
"They just don't care about the use of taxpayers' money."
The untendered contract for IBM would no longer be allowed, but was permitted under the rules that existed at the time and under previous Conservative and NDP governments, Deputy Premier George Smitherman told the legislature.
"The practice in the government of Ontario, over all parties and over decades, was that there were mechanisms that allowed for single-source contracts," said Smitherman.
"The one difference is that we've stopped those."
Health Minister David Caplan also defended the untendered contract to IBM, saying it had created the original system that the new computer would connect to, so it only made sense to stick with them for the new contract.
"IBM was the original designer of the OHIP system, both the mainframe and the data base," said Caplan.
"The contract was for the upgrades (and) since they were the ones who designed the original, it's logical that you would enter into a contract (with them)."
Auditor General Jim McCarter will release a report next week on his investigation into the untendered contracts and expense abuses at eHealth Ontario, the second provincial agency set up to create electronic health records.