New details emerge on eHealth consultant spending
The province has lifted the lid on hundreds of pages of eHealth records as new details come to light showing that spending on sole-sourced contracts by the agency is much higher than thought.
Health Minister David Caplan made the announcement on Wednesday.
The six binders of documents contain everything from day planners and meeting minutes to restaurant bills and parking receipts. Here are some details:
- board member Khalil Barsoum billed eHealth $4,600 for round trips from Florida (he has a second home there) to attend board meetings, along with car rentals and road tolls in the Sunshine State
- consultant Donna Strating billed eHealth for breakfast at Cora's including a $2 coffee
- consultant Allaudin Merali, who billed at $2,700 per day, billed eHealth for seven dollars for two bottles of mineral water
Before the announcement came, CTV Toronto reported that eHealth, charged with putting Ontarians' medical records online, had actually spent $15.3 million on untendered contracts.
The public first heard that eHealth had spent $5 million on such deals.
CTV Toronto reported Monday about an $8.5-million deal involving the Courtyard Group, a consulting firm.
The new total of $15.3 million is spread among 26 sole-sourced contracts, meaning the agency never sought another bidder.
Approximately $13 million was paid out on the contracts.
Such contracts were issued in part because eHealth was told to get moving on its mandate. Its predecessor, the Smart Systems for Health Agency, burned through $650 million over five years with little to show for its efforts.
Sole-sourced contracts and questionable spending by consultants on expenses are two matters that have had the opposition in attack mode, their efforts focusing on getting Caplan fired.
Sarah Kramer, the former CEO of eHealth, and Dr. Alan Hudson, chair of the arm's-length agency's board, have resigned.
Last month, on the same day Hudson resigned, Premier Dalton McGuinty issued new rules. He has ended the issuing of sole-sourced contracts by government agencies and tightened up the types of expenses for which consultants can seek reimbursement.
The opposition leaders still attacked the government over its handling of the eHealth file.
"This is all smells of an incestuous relationship between Liberally-connected consultants and the McGuinty government," Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak told reporters.
"At a time when you can't get a loved one into a long-term care home, when you have to wait for an MRI, to see the McGuinty government handing out untendered contracts to Liberally-connected consulting firms is absolutely outrageous."
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she had concerns about whether these were insider deals whereby eHealth officials were rewarding their friends.
"It has an odour about it, a stink," she said.
EHealth spokesperson Deanna Allen said the contracts went to valuable, highly-specialized work on behalf of taxpayers.
As to Barsoum's commute from Florida, eHealth said he is a retired IBM executive with highly specialized skills. He gets a $380 per diem when he attends meetings.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Paul Bliss