Protecting the interests of gov’t and not taxpayers

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on July 26, 2014.

Heather Forsyth

Wildrose Health Critic

MLA Calgary-Fish Creek

The Public Interest Commissioner revealed this past week that a senior Alberta Health Services (AHS) executive failed to disclose a direct conflict of interest in a $75,000 sole-source consulting contract.

In particular, this executive was the former partner and shareholder with the corporation that received this contract.

The Commissioner’s report began last January after my Wildrose colleague Kerry Towle wrote a letter to the Public Interest Commissioner’s office to investigate allegations of Alberta Health Services warehousing $11 million worth of computers.

Sadly, mishandling the deployment of $11 million in computers and handing out sole-source contracts that benefit AHS executives cannot be described as a wrongdoing under current legislation passed by the PC government.

It is further proof of what we have said about this government for a long time, their legislation is designed to protect the interests of government and not taxpayers.

Taxpayers also deserve to know why conflicts of interest for senior executives are not publicly disclosed and how this type of incident happened in the first place.

Every day, I hear from patients frustrated about being stuck in growing wait lines in emergency rooms and for key surgeries. I hear from front-line health-care workers who work day and night to hold our health-care system together, frustrated with the highly centralized leadership in our health-care system. And I hear from ordinary Albertans asking me why we keep reading stories of abuse of tax dollars in our health-care system, yet the government refuses to make the changes that need to be made to the system.

It all makes you give your head a shake.

But we know this is not the first time AHS has been caught handing out lucrative sole-source contracts, the practice is well established. Just last April, we released information showing AHS spent almost $1 billion on sole-source contracts between 2011 and 2013. That is 1,275 contracts that faced zero competitive bidding to ensure Alberta’s health-care system is getting best value for taxpayer dollars.

Remember, every dollar not saved in our health-care system, means less money that can go to hiring doctors and nurses or putting a stop to increasing wait times.

The question needs to be asked and answered why these contracts are being handed out to special friends of executives instead of being spent on the businesses that will provide best value for Alberta taxpayers.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely we will get the answers and the solutions we need from the current government.

Albertans can be assured the Wildrose will look to strengthening government legislation to crack down on this type of mishandling of taxpayer dollars.

We will work to end the ongoing abuse of sole-source contracting throughout the entire Alberta government.

Finally, Albertans can be assured that a Wildrose government will work to improve our health-care system, fix wait times and restore local decision making.

We owe it not only to taxpayers, but to our health-care workers and patients who rely on our entire health-care system.