Records show heavy eHealth spending on food
Published Friday, June 19, 2009 11:55PM EDT
Records indicate that eHealth Ontario spent heavily on food despite being warned last November by Health Minister David Caplan to watch expenses.
According to records reviewed by CTV Toronto, eHealth billed taxpayers $48,257.16 on catering for offsite meetings and another $33,034.82 on food for internal meetings.
Those expenditures were incurred between October 2008 and January.
An eHealth spokesperson told CTV Toronto said the expenditures came at a time of transition for the agency, with a new CEO and board -- and a host of meetings with stakeholders. Food had to be brought in for those meetings.
However, some of those expenditures came after Caplan sent deputy minister Ron Sapsford, now the acting CEO of eHealth, to read the arm's-length agency the riot act about its spending.
Despite that November directive, eHealth management hired consultants to organize a Christmas party.
Former CEO Sarah Kramer, who resigned her position earlier this month, had spent $51,000 redecorating her office to a standard she considered professional but not opulent.
Kramer came under attack for issuing about $5 million in sole-sourced contracts to highly-paid consultants, some of whom she knew personally -- and some of whom had links to the provincial Liberals.
Kramer's defenders have said the world of advanced medical records technology is a small one, and that eHealth had been given a mandate to get things moving after its predecessor, the Smart Systems for Health Agency, burned through $650 million in five years with little to show for the expenditure.
On Wednesday, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that Dr. Alan Hudson, chair of eHealth's board, had resigned. He also issued new government-wide rules banning the sole-source hiring of consultants and tightened up on the expenses they can claim.
The opposition is trying to keep up the pressure on the government.
They have advanced the theory that there may be other eHealth-style time bombs out there waiting to blow up in the government's face.
On the latest revelations of extravagant spending, the opposition repeated their demands that Health Minister David Caplan resign or be fired over the eHealth fiasco -- although McGuinty expressed confidence in his minister on Wednesday.
But two politicians say these latest revelations show the government didn't have control of its bureaucrats and agencies.
"You can make sure that if you have clear directions, they're going to be followed. That's the message that should be very clearly spelled out to the bureaucracy," said Bob Runciman, interim leader of the Progressive Conservative party.
"Who knows how expensive the tea party has been here in the province, and I think that's what we have to get out," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Paul Bliss