Conflict of interest found in AHS computer contract

Desktop and laptop computers were purchased for $9.5 million by AHS at the end of the 2011-12 budget year. However, they were not distributed until June 2013.

Public Interest Commissioner finds no wrongdoing or "gross mismanagement"

Public Interest Commissioner Peter Hourihan released his first report into a government whistleblower complaint on Tuesday. (CBC)

No wrongdoing was found when Alberta Health Services purchased and kept 11,000 computers in a warehouse for over a year.

However, Public Interest Commissioner Peter Hourihan found there was a conflict of interest in how the computers were procured.

The sole-source consultant contract was recommended and co-signed by an AHS employee who was a former partner and shareholder with the corporation that got the contract.

The conflict of interest wasn’t disclosed until after the contract was awarded. There was no disciplinary action because that person no longer works for AHS. 

​Despite this finding, Hourihan says he believes there was no wrongdoing. 

“All of the areas of the business enterprise that we looked into in terms of awarding the contract were followed," he said. "I did not feel that it constituted gross mismanagement to the extent where it became gross, but certainly mismanagement."

Hourihan investigated the matter after a whistleblower laid a complaint last year. He released his findings on Tuesday.

The desktop and laptop computers were purchased for $9.5 million by AHS at the end of the 2011-12 budget year. But they were not distributed until June 2013.

Hourihan found the purchase was not a gross mismanagement of public funds because the computers were bought to replace outdated models. They were procured during a public tendering process and AHS was already trying to deal with them when the whistleblower complained.

​Hourihan will not name the former employee or the company that got the contract because his report found no wrongdoing. 

Conflicts of interest self-declared

Employees of AHS are expected to declare any conflicts of interest, when they are first hired and regularly throughout their employment, according to AHS president Vickie Kaminski.

She says that includes investments, as well as conflicts that arise with a spouse’s employer.

“ It still is a reliance on an individual to self-declare. That’s where this particular piece fell down,” she said.

Kaminski says after the contract was awarded, the employee did declare a conflict. She refused to name the employee, as they are no longer with AHS for unrelated reasons.

When asked what reason the employee gave for not declaring earlier, Kaminski said she did not ask the question because it was “not pertinent” and he has already left the organization.

She says another employee who signed the forms in the transaction was verbally instructed about proper procedure.