NDP Leader Ryan Meili wrote today to Health Minister Jim Reiter requesting that he provide a full public accounting of all cases where the health authority signed a contract following vendor-sponsored travel. The Provincial Auditor revealed in December that two out of the seven cases her office scrutinized had signed contracts after employees travelled at a vendor’s expense.

“These questionable practices cast into doubt the integrity of SHA contracts,” said Meili. “The people of Saskatchewan deserve some assurance that these contracts are in their best interest, not just in the interest of those paying for or receiving all-expenses-paid trips. It’s time for the daily parade of special deals for Sask. Party friends-and-family to come to an end.”

According to the Auditor’s report, the Saskatchewan Health Authority did not have approved code of conduct and conflict of interest policies that cover vendor-sponsored travel, and no members of senior management had signed the draft annual declaration form.

Of the 30 instances of vendor-sponsored travel within the SHA reported to the Ministry of Health between January 2017 and December 2018, the Auditor tested seven instances and identified significant issues with a majority of those. In a majority of the tested cases, contrary to established good practice, the Auditor found that staff had failed to obtain formal travel approval before travelling, the business reason for the travel was unclear, or the related contracts included no provision for the vendor to cover travel or training. In two of the seven cases, the Auditor found, “staff travelled before a new contract was awarded to the vendor who paid for the travel expenses.”

The Auditor’s report follows the 2018 incident where three eHealth employees were fired for violating eHealth's conflict of interest policy. It was also revealed that SHA employees were taking similar trips but that such trips did not violate their conflict of interest policy. The SHA initially defended the practice, later adding the policy needed to be revamped.

“People should come first, not perks,” said Meili. “The Sask. Party has that formula backwards. Refusing to take this issue seriously when it first became public is evidence of that. We will be watching the Sask. Party government closely and we’ll call them out every time they let people down by putting their wealthy, well-connected insiders before the well-being of Saskatchewan people.”