Ontario deflects auditor’s criticism on use of consultants with new Act

The Ontario government unveiled the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act on the same day the Ontario auditor released his report into the use of consultants by Ontario’s Ministry of Health, the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and Ontario’s public hospitals.

The Act addresses many of the criticisms leveled by the auditor in his October 20th report and once again promises to bring hospitals under Freedom of Information legislation.

Ontario auditor Jim McCarter said his office found too many examples where consultants were engaged on a sole-source basis, where significant increases in the initial fee estimate and follow-up work were repeatedly awarded, and where there was inadequate oversight to ensure consultants delivered on time and on budget.

One of the auditor’s recommendations is that the Ministry actually follow existing procurement requirements.

McCarter also said that billings for fees and expenses were not properly monitored and supported, giving the example of one hospital which paid a lobbyist $170,000 in expenses between 2007 and 2009. When the hospital asked for receipts to support the expenses, they were told that supplying the receipts would entail a $3,000 service charge.

Of 16 hospitals looked at by the auditor, half of them had paid consultants to lobby for more funding, a practice the auditor called a “questionable use of funds provided to hospitals for clinical and administrative activities.”

The new act would bring in new standards for hospitals, Community Care Access Centres and LHINs – in fact any broader public sector organization that receives more than $10 million in government funding would be included. The new rules will apply to school boards, colleges, universities, hydro entities, Children’s Aid Societies and more.

Other requirements under the Act include

  • A requirement for hospitals and LHINs to post expenses of senior executives on-line
  • Require hospitals and LHINs to report annually on their use of consultants
  • Ban the use of public funds to hire external lobbyists (own-source funding for lobbying is still permitted)

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