Ontario auditor slams waste at eHealth, cites $3K/day contract

Post by Mike Klassen in


Globe and Mail: eHealth timeline with Penny Ballem as example of systemic abuse

The headlines are lighting up in Toronto today with the scandal that has forced the resignation of Ontario's Minister of Health. A report by Ontario's Auditor-General is a scathing rebuke of the systemic abuse that resulted in "$1 billion squandered" by eHealth.

Reporters at the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star are still processing the A-G's report. The Globe describes the use of consultants at eHealth at three-to-one over full-time staff. The Globe and Mail report includes a digital "timeline" of the eHealth scandal featuring Vancouver's City Manager Penny Ballem (see image above) as the most shocking example of favourtism.

The Star reports:

However, McCarter points a finger of blame at Kramer for using favouritism to award contracts. "In our opinion, the CEO's prior relationships with a number of the firms and individuals were one of the factors in her hiring and procurement decisions, and this does constitute favouritism," the report said.

McCarter does not accept an excuse of "urgency" for getting the electronic health record job done or the fact that the consultants — some of whom earned upwards of $3,000 a day — had relevant experience and therefore this was a valid reason for sole-sourcing contracts.

So in other words, the excuses Ballem used for her rich compensation and bypassing of a bidding process don't hold water with the Auditor General.

Reported by CBC, Ballem explains:

"I have no concern; I did some honest work for eHealth Ontario," she told CBC News.

Verbal agreements are common in the consulting world, Ballem said, and her fee was on par with what is paid in the sector and included travel and living expenses.

"It never occurred to me that I wouldn't ever get paperwork, and frankly, I never tested that because I had to go back to them and say that I was taking another position," Ballem said.

When Ballem dropped the eHealth consulting gig, RPO took over.

Ballem said she stopped serving as an advisor at RPO when she became Vancouver's city manager in mid-December 2008. The eHealth contract was doled out to RPO some time in the following months.

"There's no conflict of interest there," she said, pointing out that the health care community in Canada is relatively small.

Penny Ballem was once listed as one of RPO Management's consultants for hire. It is not clear whether Ballem received a referral fee from RPO for landing them the eHealth contract. According to our FOI, RPO did no work for eHealth in the period of two months after Ballem's departure, raising questions about whether a transition plan was ever put in place.

Penny Ballem conducted most of her billable hours on the eHealth project in the days just prior to the announcement that she was Gregor Robertson's new "hand-picked" City Manager.

Ballem was hired by eHealth, without a contract, on the recommendation of CEO Sarah Kramer, over the objections of eHealth staff.

Penny Ballem now is the head of Vancouver's civil service.


Ballem did the work, submitted an invoice, and eHealth paid it. If they had a problem with the amount they shouldn't have paid it. Plain and simple.

I don't know the relationship you guys down at City Caucus have with the previous City Manager, Judy Rogers, but it seems to me, the person that you should slogging is her. All the Olympic overruns that Penny Ballem and the Council have to deal with now, are a product of Roger's mismangement and the previous Council's leadership. Your griping about this council and Ballem is getting old.


Be sure to share your forgiving remarks with the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and Toronto Sun. They seem to be still interested in this story like us.

Btw, the people who signed Ballem's cheque are all now either resigned or fired for their part in this corruption.

After this kind of news I think someone needs a happy song.

To Jasper:

Maybe I'm just old school but I believe there should be an element of shame in doing contract work *for the public.*

Paraphrased, you're saying it's ok to say, "I billed a sickening amount, for work I can barely document, with no terms of reference to justify that work in the event of an audit. Blame the fools who approved my obscene bills, it's all their fault, and oh yeah, by the way, I'm setting a fine example for public servants everywhere." Wow, that's a defence!

If that's the ethical standard for the consulting world, what's next? I guess I can just send a bill to eHealth now for $20,000, because I think I've earned it! Who cares if I can't prove they asked me? If they pay the invoice, it's their fault, not mine! LOL

Rob'n the Hood,
I laughed myself into a stupor! Hilarious.

RPO was knee deep in e-health money. I don't think anybody has caught on. Eventually the money pit dried up and so they sold themselves to secor.

Check out BCWineLover.com!

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