According to Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn, Tory leader Tim Hudak intends to use the e-Health scandal in the provincial election much like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford used gravy at the municipal level.
What Hudak might be a little more worried about is the media taking a serious look at what the Auditor-General of Ontario actually had to say in his report on eHealth.
While it is true there were many sole-source contracts, the reality is the problems at eHealth can be directly linked back to the Smarts System for Health Agency (SSHA) started by the Tories.
In fact, of the $1 billion spent as of 2009, the year the auditor filed his report, $800 million of it was spent in the six years leading up to the scandal – including the Harris/Eves years.
Much of the Ontario General’s report focuses on the fact that the SSHA was set up without a strategic plan, leading to incredible waste. Looking at the slow progress of the SSHA in 2006, McGuinty hired Deloitte Consulting to do a comprehensive review.
“Among the problems Deloitte identified was the absence of a comprehensive government eHealth strategy, which resulted in the SSHA not being clear on its role and not being able to complete its own strategy,” writes the auditor.
The problem with consultants was one that escalated over time. Some of the consultants, the auditor reported, had been under contract for seven years –that would be prior to the arrival of the McGuinty government.
In his report, the auditor questions the reliance on consultants: “The fact that the development of an EHR (Electronic Health Record) had been on the government’s agencda as far back as the early 2000s caused us to question the heavy, and in some cases almost total, reliance on consultants.”
While the auditor had found improper sole-source contracting, and contract awards to companies that had much higher bids, the auditor made it clear there was no evidence of political influence or fraud despite Hudak’s accusations of “deliberate price-fixing and bid-rigging.”
Clearly eHealth was a mess. It started with poor foundations set by the Tories, and it took the Liberals well into their second term before the mess could be addressed.
Hudak is promising an inquiry. He may think otherwise, especially if he bothered to actually read the auditor’s report.