Government & policy
More untendered contracts uncovered at
TORONTO – The value of untendered
contracts awarded by eHealth Ontario is much higher than what was
originally reported, with an even larger amount going to the
Toronto-based Courtyard Group. According to a new report by CBC News,
Courtyard Group had secured an $8.5 million contract in April of this
year, about half of which was untendered.
It was originally reported that eHealth Ontario had handed out about
$5.5 million in consulting contracts without competitive bidding. In
June, the CEO and chairman of the provincial agency both resigned after
a barrage of negative publicity about the untendered contracts, along
with the criticism of high salaries and bonuses, as well as questionable
use of public money on such things as meals and snacks.
Premier Dalton McGuinty has apologized for the spending and expense
abuse scandal at eHealth, and changed procurement rules for all
ministries and agencies to require competitive bidding.
According to the CBC report, eHealth spokeswoman Deanna Allen said some
of Courtyard’s $8.5 million contract involved work at the Ministry of
Health and at the precursor to eHealth that was merged into the new
The New Democrats want the provincial auditor general to investigate
links between Courtyard and the Liberal government, noting that one of
its founders, John Ronson, was chair of the Liberals' 1995 election
EHealth Ontario was set up last September to replace another provincial
organization, Smart Systems for Health Agency, which had spent
approximately $650 million trying to create the infrastructure for a
province-wide system of electronic health records and solutions.
Government officials concluded the agency wasn’t producing value for the
money, and folded it into eHealth Ontario.
On a related front, the Ontario government has released new rules that
require all consulting contracts over $100,000 to follow a competitive
hiring process, regardless of dollar value. Consultants will also no
longer be entitled to bill for hospitality, food expenses or incidental
Under the new regulations, consultants will be eligible for
transportation and accommodation expenses related to their assignment,
only if they have been pre-approved. The new rules will apply to all
Ontario ministries and extend to agencies such as eHealth Ontario, the
Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the Workplace Safety and Insurance
Board, Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One.
EHealth officials have said the sole-sourced deals were necessary
because they were on an urgent timeline – their goal is to get the
province’s health records online, so all of a patient’s doctors have
ready access to them, by 2015.
The new rules take effect immediately. Government agencies must now hold
an open competitive process on all contracts worth more than $100,000.
Exceptions will be made for unforeseen urgency and confidential projects
or where only one supplier is able to meet the requirements.
Meanwhile, Ontario Health Minister David Caplan has been under fire from
opposition critics for quietly deciding to scrap an investigation into
the eHealth agency.
Caplan allowed the eHealth board to opt out of a third-party audit by
PricewaterhouseCoopers. The decision comes six and a half weeks after he
first ordered the probe and days before it was expected to report its
An eHealth spokeswoman said that in the more than six weeks since the
probe was first ordered, no work actually took place. Instead, auditors
and eHealth management spent weeks discussing the scope of the
investigation before deciding their work would duplicate an
investigation already under way by Auditor General Jim McCarter, who is
expected to release a report on the agency in September.
Posted July 30/09.