TORONTO – A $26.9 million government payment to a private company for work not completed is yet another sign that the province needs to bring contracted-out work back into the public sector, the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says.
“Privatization has a lousy track record in Ontario, whether you’re talking about medical lab tests or highway maintenance, but there’s something special about contracting out information technology,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “From the Andersen Consulting mess 20 years ago to the Social Assistance Management System (SAMS) disaster this year, IT privatization has been synonymous with broken promises and extra costs.
“This work should be done in-house,” he said. “Compared to these private companies, we really can do it better and cheaper in the public sector.”
Thomas made the remarks after an arbitrator’s ruling last week ordered eHealth Ontario to pay $26.9 million to a contractor for work done on an online registry for diabetes patients even though the registry was never completed and never used.
“Outsourcing of IT services has exploded under the Liberals over the last few years, despite the fact that their own consultant’s report found IT contractors charge two to three times more than it would cost to have public employees perform the work in-house,” Thomas said.
The government must re-build its capacity to manage and deliver IT projects, the OPSEU president said.
“Contracting out has meant layoffs for my members,” he said. “When you lay off staff, you lose expertise, and when you lose expertise you lose the ability to oversee contractors,” he said. “When managers don’t know what they’re buying, and contractors know they don’t know, that’s when you get into trouble.
“I’ve got a simple solution: bring the work in-house.”
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