While the untendered contracts are no doubt an issue, the $1.65 for a cup of tea does not seem excessive especially if it was specialty tea. If a board member is off in Florida one would think that they would just absent themselves rather than dinging the taxpayer for all the travel back and forth. Since these people are supposed to be updating medical records by putting them on line maybe they could also update their meeting process by having their meetings on line as well!
TheStar.com - Ontario - eHealth spending mess deepens
Queen's Park Bureau
EHealth Ontario awarded $11 million more in untendered contracts than previously revealed, new documents show.
The documents, released in response to freedom-of-information requests, also indicate board members have billed for travel expenses from as far away as Florida to attend Toronto meetings.
They show the value of untendered contracts awarded by the agency is about $16 million – more than triple the $5 million revealed this spring.
The Liberal government released seven black binders with thousands of pages of documents yesterday after requests from the provincial Progressive Conservative party regarding eHealth Ontario.
The eHealth agency, established to bring Ontario health records online by 2015, was at the centre of a spending scandal this spring after it was revealed millions of dollars worth of sole-sourced contracts had been awarded to consulting firms, and that high-priced consultants had billed taxpayers for expenses such as a $1.65 cup of tea.
The government said it handed out the binders in the interests of transparency.
"It is in the public interest for us to be accountable and transparent and that is why we are handing out the information in an open and unaltered way," Health Minister David Caplan said in a phone interview.
But opposition leaders say the Liberals released the documents during the Legislature's summer recess deliberately.
"The government is trying to flood the information out there in the hopes the story will go away," New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath said yesterday.
The eHealth Ontario scandal dominated the House in May and June. Opposition MPPs accused eHealth board chair Dr. Alan Hudson and CEO Sarah Kramer of awarding untendered contracts to acquaintances and questioned why Kramer received a $114,000 bonus after five months work.
Hudson and Kramer have left their roles at the agency.
The $16 million in sole-sourced contracts were given to firms such as Courtyard Group, Accenture, Anzen Consulting Inc., and others from September 2008 to June 8, 2009. One Anzen contract worth $737,800, was tendered, according to eHealth Ontario spokesperson Deanna Allen.
Last month, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced new rules under which Ontario government consulting contracts must be put out to tender. As well, consultants can no longer bill for food and incidental costs.
Opposition members are also angry a promised review by PricewaterhouseCoopers was dropped this month because of potential overlap with provincial Auditor General Jim McCarter's investigation.
Caplan told the Star that board members will no longer bill for travel from outside Canada.
But Allen said board expenses for travel are consistent with the agency's travel policy. "They would have received approval by the board chair at the time," she said.
Board member Khalil Barsoum has travelled from Florida to attend eHealth Ontario board meetings, the documents show. An eHealth board expense claim form stamped March 31, 2009, shows Barsoum billed $1,374 for airfare, $117.02 for car rental and parking in Toronto, and $133.77 for car rental for the drive home in Florida.
"I will not comment, I am afraid," Barsoum, a retired IBM executive who resides in Toronto and Florida, told the Star last night.
The current board chair, Rita Burak, is interested in ensuring when future meetings take place they coincide with when members are in town or that they "maximize the use of conference calls," Allen said.
Board members are entitled to $380 per diem for the board meeting, and the chair $600, she said.
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