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.
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.