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Ontario gives sole-sourced contract to Deloitte to support COVID-19 vaccination campaign

Ontario's government has awarded a sole-sourced contract to consulting firm Deloitte to support the province's vaccine task force, CBC News has learned.

Doug Ford government refuses to reveal cost of consulting deal

Ontario Premier Doug Ford looks on as a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is prepared by pharmacy technician supervisor Tamara Booth Rumsey at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Ontario's government has awarded a sole-sourced contract to consulting firm Deloitte to support the province's vaccine task force, CBC News has learned. 

The Ministry of Health confirmed the contract but did not answer basic questions about it, including the cost and the specific nature of the work that Deloitte is hired to do. 

"Given the importance and the speed at which the province had to prepare and implement our vaccination rollout, Deloitte was awarded a contract following a single source procurement, utilizing an allowable exception due to extraordinary circumstances," said a Ministry of Health spokesperson in an email to CBC News.

Deloitte "brought on-the-ground implementation and specialized expertise that we needed to augment our team's capacity," the spokesperson said.

"Ontario's vaccine rollout is the largest logistical undertaking by our province in a century." 

CBC News emailed Deloitte Canada's media relations staff late Wednesday afternoon to seek further information about the Ontario contract, but has not received a reply. 

Francesca Passer, a registered pharmacist technician, prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Ontario's vaccine task force is led by retired general Rick Hillier, who is being paid $20,000 per month. The government has allocated $135 million to its vaccine program for the current fiscal year, which ends on March 31.    

A government official told CBC News a single-source procurement is different from a sole-source contract. 

The official said three firms were contacted about their ability to begin work immediately and assessed for their expertise in carrying out the contract. Two firms met the requirements and Deloitte was recommended, the official said. 

Deloitte has been contracted widely by governments in Canada to work on various logistical aspects of the COVID-19 response, including vaccinations. 

In January, the federal government gave Deloitte a $16-million contract to develop a new technology system to track and manage the distribution of vaccines across the country. 

That system, called the national vaccine management IT platform, is now in operation. The Globe and Mail reported Wednesday that federal officials are confident it won't face the same problems as software Deloitte created for tracking the distribution of vaccines in the U.S.

Quebec turned to Deloitte in October for a one-year $12.4 million contract to use the company's Health Connect system for booking COVID-19 testing appointments, after sacking the firm that was previously involved. 

Retired general Rick Hillier is chairing Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

The Ford government's use of consulting firms to advise on Ontario's COVID-19 response came under scrutiny from the province's auditor general in November.

The cabinet office and the ministries of finance, education and environment gave McKinsey & Company four sole-sourced contracts last year worth a total of $4.8 million. For one of the contracts, the firm designed Ontario's "command table" structure for advising cabinet on pandemic-related measures.

The province's target is to administer 2.3 million doses of vaccines by the end of March. As of Tuesday, the latest date for which figures were available, Ontario had administered 412,000 doses. 

Canada's vaccine supplies from manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna in the past month have fallen far short of initial forecasts from the federal government. Despite the shortages, Ontario's government said it was on track to hit its target of vaccinating all willing residents of the province's long-term care homes by Wednesday.

The country is on track to receive and distribute approximately 400,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week and 475,000 doses the following week, the military commander leading vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada, Maj.-Gen Dany Fortin, said Tuesday.

Ontario's allotted share is about 38 per cent of federal vaccine shipments. 

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