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The value of a contract with a private health agency explodes by 922% in Estrie

Photo: Valérian Mazataud Le Devoir The CIUSSS chose to meet its needs for nurses and beneficiary attendants through three separate contracts, which contravened a directive in force in the network.

Without even assessing its labor needs in a “rigorous” manner, the CIUSSS de l’Estrie awarded private health agencies direct contracts whose value exploded until 'at 922%.

On January 27, 2023, the CIUSSS awarded a $118,000 contract, without a call for tenders, to an agency to provide nurses and beneficiary attendants to lend a hand in the network. The contract ended up costing $1.2 million.

In a decision rendered Wednesday, the Public Procurement Authority (AMP) recalls the CIUSSS de l'Estrie to order. By avoiding public calls for tenders, he contravened a directive in force in the network. The establishment also did not carry out an “adequate and rigorous assessment of its needs” before awarding three contracts over the counter.

The CIUSSS also chose to meet its needs for nurses and beneficiary attendants through three separate contracts, the value of which was just below the call for tender threshold, established at that time at $121,200, note AMP.

A $115,000 contract awarded on January 17, 2023 ended up costing the CIUSSS $409,895. Another, initially valued at $110,000, ended up being worth $688,078. That leaves the third contract, which went from $118,000 to $1.2 million. The AMP, we read in the decision, “notes that the additional expenses result from greater use of the services of nurses and beneficiary attendants than was provided for in the contracts”.

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In a response to Devoir, the CIUSSS explains that “the gap comes from issues in the monitoring mechanisms rather than from non-compliance with instructions”. He added that he had already noted the problems raised in the AMP report and that he was therefore carrying out corrective work.

No vision of needs

To justify the separation of its contracts, the CIUSSS “indicated to the AMP that purchase requests for labor needs 'independent work were treated piecemeal' and not 'globally'. It was therefore “difficult for the CIUSSS-Estrie to have a transversal and clear vision” of its needs, we read in the decision.

The AMP also states that it notes that “these shortcomings in determining the extent of needs” for independent labour “were such that the CIUSSS-Estrie failed in its obligation to carry out an adequate and rigorous assessment of its needs” before awarding three contracts to private agencies.

Once the contracts were awarded, the CIUSSS acknowledged that it was unable to “quickly obtain the information to adequately monitor the amounts committed” to agencies providing independent labour.

In addition, the two agencies selected for the contracts were not among the service providers targeted by the government as part of a large public call for tenders. The CIUSSS was therefore obliged to request the services of these agencies selected by Quebec, which it did not do.

No emergency

The AMP also considered the awarding of two direct contracts, on June 7 and 15, 2023, for respective values ​​of $971,465 and $535,430. To justify them, the CIUSSS pleaded an “emergency situation where the safety of people or property was in question”.

However, a manager had informed his colleagues of a “significant shortage of human resources” from January, notes the AMP. In April, the CIUSSS de l'Estrie had also estimated its needs for external services for beneficiary attendants and nurses at $6.8 million.

“The AMP notes that the event at the origin of the situation described as urgent by the CIUSSS-Estrie, namely the shortage of personnel, was known and thus predictable since January 25, 2023, i.e. more than four months before the “award of the two contracts”, it is written in the decision.

She adds that emergency contracts should be limited in time and of short duration, and not provide for renewal options, as was seen at the CIUSSS de l'Estrie.

The AMP recommends in particular that the establishment submit a recovery plan to it within 45 days of its decision. In particular, the CIUSSS is required to review its contractual management procedures and improve its contract monitoring. “We will comply with all of the recommendations made in this report,” assured the CIUSSS in its email to Devoir.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116