Thursday, October 21, 2010

When will George Smitherman apologize for all his financial scandals?

The latest scandal involving Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government was reported by Len Greenberg (National Post, Oct.21, 2010, here):

"Ontario’s health bureaucracy is facing yet another scandal in the wake of more revelations of spending and procurement abuses.

In a special report released Wednesday morning, Auditor-General Jim McCarter outlines numerous problems at hospitals and local health integration networks (LHINs), regional funding agencies created by the Liberal government.

McCarter points to the questionable hiring of pricey consultants, many of which were sole-sourced and often not required to justify the work they did.

“We acknowledge that consultants can play an important role in the health-care sector,” Mr. McCarter said in a statement. “But we found far too many examples where consultants were engaged on a sole-sourced basis, where significant increases in the initial fee estimate and follow-on work were repeatedly awarded, where there was inadequate oversight to ensure consultants delivered on time and on budget and where billings for fees and expenses were not properly monitored and supported.”

The report details a litany of questionable consulting gigs at hospitals, including one, worth $700,000, that was so vague it didn’t even list a detailed description of services needed.

Another hospital completely failed to account for a $170,000 consultant contract, and was unable to produce the initial request for proposal, the names and number of firms invited to bid, the bidders’ proposals or any evaluation criteria used to reward the contract. The same firm was retained for another, $430,000 contract.

Another hospital paid $8.3 million to one consulting firm for IT services over the past three fiscal years, including $180,000 the firm charges for each consultant it provides.

The auditor’s report also details questionable expense claims by hospital consultants. They include one temporary executive who, despite his $275,000 annual salary, also billed the hospital nearly $150,000 for other consultants and administrative support, $14,000 for salary bonuses, foreign exchange fees and a Christmas luncheon, and numerous expensive hotels (including one, in Chicago, where he paid $500 for hotel phone charges) and lavish meals around the world.

McCarter also questioned the use of lobbyists by half the 16 hospitals he audited.

“We questioned the appropriateness of using government funds to pay lobbyists to help obtain more government funding.”

Health minister Deb Matthews reacted swiftly to the report, announcing legislation that will ban the use of lobbyists and open hospitals to freedom of information legislation by January 1, 2012.

Ms. Matthews said she convened a conference call with all Ontario’s hospital chief executives shortly before the report was released.

“I’m not sure people in our hospital sector really understand who’s paying the bill. I told them to remember whose system it is, who’s paying the bill, who’s paying our salaries.”

The auditor-general also found “significant” problems with consultant contracts signed by LHINs.

The revelations contained in Wednesday’s report are reminiscent of those unearthed last December, when Mr. McCarter detailed spending abuses at eHealth Ontario. That agency, created by the Liberal government, was found to have given millions in sole-sourced contracts to high-priced consultants with few controls and little oversight.

“I’m not afraid to say that I’m really sorry this has gone on,” said Matthews. “I don’t think this is acceptable. I don’t think we’ve been as accountable as we ought to have been. We owe it to taxpayers to ensure that every dollar they spend on taxes gets the best possible value.”

Haven't we heard this same old Liberal song of contrition before?! The same ole promises by stinking McGuintyites telling us to 'just trust them', claiming that they're gonna clean up their act - but ONLY AFTER THEY'VE BEEN CAUGHT, again and again!?

This serial lying and duplicity by McGuinty's Grit gang - including Smitherman, Jim Bradley, Kim Craitor - isn't new.

As a reminder, just look back at some of the disgusting details about George Smitherman's eHealth scam, which were in another McCarter report, only a scant year ago - see here (National Post, Oct.9, 2009):

"In a shocking report that precipitated the resignation of one Liberal cabinet minister and prompted calls for the head of another, the province’s auditor general Wednesday portrayed eHealth Ontario as a rogue agency operating with virtually no accountability.

Jim McCarter said rule-breaking that occurred under former CEO Sarah Kramer, who his report found circumvented procurement policies and deceived board members at eHealth, was the worst he’s ever seen.

“Almost every large contract, she was either making the decision or the consultant that she hired as an acting vice-president was making the decisions,” Mr. McCarter said in an interview. “The power was very highly centralized. That was highly unusual. And I think that came about because she felt she had the implied authority to do what was necessary to get the job done.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, Ms. Kramer vigorously denied the facts contained in the auditor’s report.

“I must respectfully, but very strongly, disagree with him,” she wrote, asserting that board members were aware of contracting practices she followed.

“That the auditor general suggests that these individuals would somehow lack a proper understanding of procurement rules, or somehow be intimidated by the CEO or the chair or by the priorities of the premier, is a grave insult to them,” Kramer wrote

The report says Ms. Kramer used her power and that faulty justification to spread millions of dollars in contracts to her friends and former colleagues.

“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 states.

One firm, for example, was awarded a job even though its $3.1-million bid was five times higher than another firm’s bid.

During one nine-month period, Ms. Kramer handed out $5.6-million in sole-sourced contracts and provided no documentation to justify the spending.

“[Ms. Kramer] arranged for 95% of it, with no procurement or human resources staff at the ministry or the agency being involved,” the report states. “The CEO basically overrode all of the normal procedures and controls used by SSHA’s (Smart Systems for Health Agency) procurement department. Most of the contracts were signed only after the work had actually begun.”

Once contractors were hired, they were subjected to very little oversight and were allowed to bill based on the number of hours worked, rather than what they achieved. Ms. Kramer and eHealth brass often circumvented board oversight, either by breaking large contracts into smaller ones or simply by failing to inform them of contracts.

“The CEO brought none of the sole-sourced contracts that she personally arranged and awarded to the board’s attention,” Mr. McCarter states in the report. “We believe that the board was under the impression ... that consultants and other vendors were being procured in accordance with established policies.”

Ms. Kramer resigned in June following revelations of procurement improprieties.

A companion branch within the health ministry, meanwhile, was packed full of consultants. By 2008, the ministry had hired 300 consultants, including some in positions of senior management, while it employed less than 30 full-time employees.

“Consultants were not only managing other consultants, but also at times had the authority to hire more consultants, sometimes from their own firm,” Mr. McCarter states in the report.

Overall, Mr. McCarter says the government’s effort to get health records online by 2015 was completely aimless. The Ministry of Health did not develop a strategic plan for the multibillion-dollar project until March 2009, six years after it was begun.

“When you get a lack of oversight, you get broken rules,” Mr. McCarter told reporters at a news conference. “It goes together like a horse and carriage.”

For Premier Dalton McGuinty, the eHealth spending controversy represents the biggest and most damaging scandal his government has faced since sweeping to power in 2003. He personally met with Ms. Kramer when she was hired by eHealth chairman Dr. Alan Hudson to “impress upon her the importance of her upcoming work.”

During his audit, Mr. McCarter was blocked for months by Health Ministry bureaucrats who wouldn’t agree to help him. He finally called deputy health minister Ron Sapsford personally and threatened to table his complaints in the legislature. Once he did that, he said, “we got in the door the next day.”

That unusual tactic set off alarm bells in the mind of the veteran auditor.

“I have to be honest, delaying us is kind of like waving the red flag at a bull,” he told reporters.

At Queen’s Park Wednesday, opposition politicians wondered why only Health Minister David Caplan was forced to pay the price for the eHealth scandal.

Mr. Caplan, whose resignation was formerly accepted by Mr. McGuinty, took over the health portfolio from George Smitherman in June 2008, three months before eHealth was launched.

“The auditor general’s report makes it quite clear than many of the biggest abuses of taxpayer money occurred under the watchful eye of George Smitherman,” said Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. “David Caplan was caught carrying George Smitherman’s dirty laundry.”

“If I was premier, I wouldn’t have Smitherman in my cabinet or as my deputy premier either,” chimed in NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

But Mr. McGuinty said he decided not to ask Mr. Smitherman, who has expressed interest in running for Toronto’s soon-to-be-vacant mayoralty, to resign.

“It’s my judgment call and I stand by that,” Mr. McGuinty told reporters. “I am taking responsibility ... by the actions we’ve taken today upon the release of the report, including minister Caplan’s resignation. Ultimately, we’ll be judged by the people of Ontario. I accept that and I look forward to that.”

Deb Matthews takes over for Mr. Caplan in a mini-shuffle that also brought Laurel Broten back into cabinet.

All Canadian provinces are in the process of establishing electronic health record systems to replace traditional paper-based records, a process that began in 2000. Experts say online records could potentially save lives, reduce health-care costs and improve patient service.

The new system would reduce the likelihood of duplicate tests and lead to shorter wait times. It would also lower the chances of adverse drug reactions, the fourth-leading cause of death in Ontario.

However, the auditor’s report says Ontario “is near the back of the pack compared to most other provinces” when it comes to progress on electronic health records.

It is still unclear what — if any — delays the project will suffer as a result of the upheaval at eHealth."


Did anything change in the year between the two above reports? NO!! Nothing changed!! Despite being warned on numerous occasions - well before 2009 - by the auditor and others of their financial abuses, the arrogant McGuinty Liberals simply continued to lie and hide. Both above reports dealt with the financial scams under George Smitherman's watch.

Of course, the lying Liberals wanted us to believe their claims that they were going to run a transparent government, with tight rules on sole-sourced contracts. Remember the Great Lying McGuinty making these claims - see here, here?

That disgusting sack of Liberal crap George Smitherman was not only blowing hundreds of millions at eHealth, he was also cutting health care (in Niagara, forcing hospitals to close two emergency rooms) while on the other hand allowing these outrageous financial abuses over at his expensive (and useless) new monopolistic LHIN bureaucracy.

Smitherman left a diaper load of crap in David Caplan's desk (and it was Caplan who was fired/resigned!); and now, Deb Matthews is apologizing for the stinking pile of shit which Slitherman dumped on her doorstep as well.

And Smitherman? He has yet to apologize.

(ahh... screw the apology: Smitherman should be charged with fraud.)

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