Thursday, June 11, 2009

McGuinty’s mea culpa

Even as he made a clear indictment of his Health Minister David Caplan, Premier Dalton McGuinty defended eHealth board chairman Dr. Alan Hudson, notwithstanding accusations that eHealth awarded nearly $5 million in untendered contracts. The Canadian Press, in the Toronto Star, quotes McGuinty as saying:

“We should have had more oversight in place. We should have had a greater understanding of what was happening on the ground and providing ongoing advice, even though this was an arm’s length agency.”

President and CEO of eHealth Sarah Kramer lost her job on Sunday over the eHealth scandal, which saw consultants being paid up to $2,700 a day for minor purchases like tea and snacks. One consulting firm on an untendered contract charged eHealth for reading newspaper articles, reviewing voice mail messages and talking shop during a subway ride.

Board chairman of eHealth Dr. Alan Hudson signed off on a $114,000 bonus to Kramer as a termination settlement after only a few months on the job—this on top of her $380,000 a year salary.

Health Minister David Caplan (pictured) has defended the bonus, claiming it was what Kramer would have received at her previous job at Cancer Care Ontario. (I wonder what sort of a mess she left there.) Apparently, he has changed his mind after learning Kramer would have received only about $40,000 had she been allowed to stay at eHealth.

After all this, incredibly, Premier McGuinty has insisted rules were not broken in awarding the untendered contracts and Minister Caplan gets to keep his job.

Perhaps inadequate rules were not broken, but this episode does give us some insight into the level of incompetence of those holding senior posts in government and its agencies. It also shows us how these people move around from one cushy high-paying government job to another. The share size of the waste of taxpayers’ money is mind boggling.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath had this to say:

“Whether it’s an arm’s-length agency or not, we still should expect some significant oversight for the health dollars that are being spent. Ultimately, that responsibility, that obligation, lies with the minister of health.”

As an arm’s-length government agency, eHealth replaced another provincial agency which had been shut down after spending some $650 million and failing to produce anything of value—it was supposed to create electronic health records for the province.

This agency employs over 150 people earning more than $100,000 (see here for salary disclosure). Surely we should expect better stewardship of tax payers’ money. And why has only the president been fired? Several other highly paid people with titles implying internal control and fiduciary responsibility are listed on their high-priced roster. Do they get absolved of their responsibility and get to keep their jobs? This is just wrong—on any level.

But what the heck, it is only tax payers’ money. And, apparently, there’s plenty of that to toss around. McGuinty never met a tax he didn’t like.

Ontario is being run by grossly incompetent nincompoops. David Caplan, as the cabinet minister responsible for this boondoggle, should be dismissed from cabinet immediately.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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