The Eagle Blog

eHealth CEO Gets the Boot

The front page on many newspapers today is the story about Ontario’s ehealth CEO, Sarah Kramer, getting fired, ostensibly for awarding millions of dollars in sole source contracts.

The political fallout from this story is not done yet and I will be surprised if the minister doesn’t lose his portfolio too.

As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, I am no friend to McGuinty’s Liberal government here in Ontario … but this is another case the press acting like a pack of wolves when they smell blood.

YES … the sole source contracts were a red flag to a bull in an economy like this one where Ontario lost 60,000 jobs in May.

BUT … Kramer was brought in to effect change quickly and to fix a perceived “mess” at Smart Systems for Health which was a Conservative invention which was reported to have spent $647 million with “nothing much to show” for it. Fast change requires quick action and not the full procurement process of government.

AND … many of the sole source contracts were issued prior to Kramer’s arrival. (Hence the statement that perhaps the political fallout hasn’t stopped yet).

YES … the relationship between Kramer, Alan Hudson (board chair) and many of the consultants looks a little “close”.

BUT … the market for eHealth experts in the World is not big and in Canada it has to be very small. It would be extremely unlikely if the best minds in this field wouldn’t know each other. Most executives would sooner work with people they know and have respect for and I expect that is what happened here.

YES … the optics of Kramer receiving a large bonus on the one hand and then informing staff that bonuses would be skinny this year because of the economy looked bad.

BUT … Kramer’s bonus was a negotiated part of her income, which would have formed part of her decision whether to accept this job. It appears that she negotiated well, because her previous job would not have paid this much!

YES … highly paid consultants expensing their tea and cookies is ridiculous.

BUT … if you are CEO of eHealth is that a battle worth fighting? There would have been daily battles around changing key players, establishing a corporate direction to make things happen and any number of decision points. A few dollars on an expense account is hardly her problem.

What do I conclude?

The press is all over this and Kramer is getting a very public battering. In my mind she was an executive trying to get things done, but she does not seem to have had very good advice or judgement on the politics of this position. I expect that she will make an excellent private sector executive.

Sarah Kramer had to go … because she acted in a private sector manner, in trying to “get things done”! Just another fine example to support the question, “Why would ANYONE want to be “front and centre” in the public eye like this?”

Certainly not me!


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26 thoughts on “eHealth CEO Gets the Boot

  1. The "best minds in ehealth" in Canada do indeed know each other but what went on here involved a small subset of them with close ties to Alan Hudson and the Ontario Liberal Party. Many of the "best minds" were shut out of the process by the clique in control. The atmosphere at public ehealth events in the last few months has been quite poisonous.

  2. The "best minds in ehealth" in Canada do indeed know each other but what went on here involved a small subset of them with close ties to Alan Hudson and the Ontario Liberal Party. Many of the "best minds" were shut out of the process by the clique in control. The atmosphere at public ehealth events in the last few months has been quite poisonous.

  3. It will be interesting to see how much of the detail comes out into the public domain.

  4. It will be interesting to see how much of the detail comes out into the public domain.

  5. Another factor that has been made headlines was the fact that "untendered" contracts were rewarded. This would IMO be partially laudable for the sake of getting work done quickly. How long would it have taken to offer tendered contracts, and what are the perceived benefits?

  6. Another factor that has been made headlines was the fact that "untendered" contracts were rewarded. This would IMO be partially laudable for the sake of getting work done quickly. How long would it have taken to offer tendered contracts, and what are the perceived benefits?

  7. Another thought: the amount of salaries offered to some of the consultants was above and beyond what consultants are normally offered. IMO paying for one of the consultant's round trips to Alberta was a bit over the top. In a normal situation, again IMO, the consultant in question would be requested to relocate to Toronto.

  8. Another thought: the amount of salaries offered to some of the consultants was above and beyond what consultants are normally offered. IMO paying for one of the consultant's round trips to Alberta was a bit over the top. In a normal situation, again IMO, the consultant in question would be requested to relocate to Toronto.

  9. In Canada government contracts have to be awarded based on a fair and equitable bid process. The way around that is through extenuating circumstances … which is the argument presented here.

    The tendering process for skilled resources could actually be done quite quickly, probably a few weeks. The process gets longer and much more complicated when you are looking for a "solution" or anything more complicated than a body or two.

    Often in cases like this the agency would tender for the bodies to get things going and then have an RFP process for the larger piece.

    Again, I am not defending Kramer or the agency I just am not aware of all the details here. It appears that the press and many people reading their articles are not averse to jumping to conclusions. I have been accused of being a CEO defending a CEO … I don't think I have defended her, but I do know the kind of pressures Kramer would have, so perhaps I see both sides more than some others might.

    My comment stands … Kramer had to go. I just have some sympathy for someone in a very tough position who got things done.

    As for the amounts paid to the contractors … I can't comment on whether it was too much. If their knowledge would save the government (and us tax payers) many millions of dollars then is it too much?

  10. In Canada government contracts have to be awarded based on a fair and equitable bid process. The way around that is through extenuating circumstances … which is the argument presented here.

    The tendering process for skilled resources could actually be done quite quickly, probably a few weeks. The process gets longer and much more complicated when you are looking for a "solution" or anything more complicated than a body or two.

    Often in cases like this the agency would tender for the bodies to get things going and then have an RFP process for the larger piece.

    Again, I am not defending Kramer or the agency I just am not aware of all the details here. It appears that the press and many people reading their articles are not averse to jumping to conclusions. I have been accused of being a CEO defending a CEO … I don't think I have defended her, but I do know the kind of pressures Kramer would have, so perhaps I see both sides more than some others might.

    My comment stands … Kramer had to go. I just have some sympathy for someone in a very tough position who got things done.

    As for the amounts paid to the contractors … I can't comment on whether it was too much. If their knowledge would save the government (and us tax payers) many millions of dollars then is it too much?

  11. Procurement rules are a costly nuisance, but without them the eHealth situation would be the norm rather than the exception.

    Without a profit motive to drive them, public institutions have no incentive *not* to hire their friends and relatives. Procurement rules take the place of that incentive.

  12. Procurement rules are a costly nuisance, but without them the eHealth situation would be the norm rather than the exception.

    Without a profit motive to drive them, public institutions have no incentive *not* to hire their friends and relatives. Procurement rules take the place of that incentive.

  13. If Kramer was "trying to effect change quickly and to fix a percieved mess" where did she find the time to procure $51,500 of new office equipment for herself and what does that indicate about her priorities?

  14. If Kramer was "trying to effect change quickly and to fix a percieved mess" where did she find the time to procure $51,500 of new office equipment for herself and what does that indicate about her priorities?

  15. If Kramer was trying "to effect change quickly and to fix a perceived "mess"", how did sehe find the time to spend $51,500 on new office furniture and what does that indicate about her sense of priorities? This reminds me of the EX-RCMP Chief Zacardelli spending on big screen TVs and exotic rding boots. It is rare to find competence among these "entitled" public servants. – Remember Eleanor Clitherore and the other Hydro One profligate executives like Parkinson.

  16. If Kramer was trying "to effect change quickly and to fix a perceived "mess"", how did sehe find the time to spend $51,500 on new office furniture and what does that indicate about her sense of priorities? This reminds me of the EX-RCMP Chief Zacardelli spending on big screen TVs and exotic rding boots. It is rare to find competence among these "entitled" public servants. – Remember Eleanor Clitherore and the other Hydro One profligate executives like Parkinson.

  17. I expect Kramer got her furniture the same way I got mine … I asked someone else to handle it! I would not have spent as much personally, but then again I'm cheap.

  18. I expect Kramer got her furniture the same way I got mine … I asked someone else to handle it! I would not have spent as much personally, but then again I'm cheap.

  19. "I would not have spent as much personally, but then again I'm cheap."

    As a business owner you'd be spending your *own* money, so you have every reason to be "thrifty". 🙂

  20. "I would not have spent as much personally, but then again I'm cheap."

    As a business owner you'd be spending your *own* money, so you have every reason to be "thrifty". 🙂

  21. I worked with Ms. Kramer in Nova Scotia. Bright woman, motivated and anxious to do a good job and make things happen. I suspect she has lost none of those traits when she returned to Ontario where she has continued to work in the public sector. It seems to me that this agency was already $650 million in the hole when she arrived, not sure how anyone can be expected to turn that around in 6-9 months. I hope she doesn't have any further aspirations to work high level in the public sector as those opportunities surely are long gone. I suspect private sector work is going to be rather difficult to come by for the scapegoat of this mess.

  22. I worked with Ms. Kramer in Nova Scotia. Bright woman, motivated and anxious to do a good job and make things happen. I suspect she has lost none of those traits when she returned to Ontario where she has continued to work in the public sector. It seems to me that this agency was already $650 million in the hole when she arrived, not sure how anyone can be expected to turn that around in 6-9 months. I hope she doesn't have any further aspirations to work high level in the public sector as those opportunities surely are long gone. I suspect private sector work is going to be rather difficult to come by for the scapegoat of this mess.

  23. This story is interesting for its scandal value, but I predict that it will have a serious impact on all of us in the consulting business.

    In typical fashion, the gov't will probably over-react and impose all sorts of new procurement rules that will punish everybody equally, whether the per diem rate is $2,700 or $400. As if there aren't enough rules already!

  24. This story is interesting for its scandal value, but I predict that it will have a serious impact on all of us in the consulting business.

    In typical fashion, the gov't will probably over-react and impose all sorts of new procurement rules that will punish everybody equally, whether the per diem rate is $2,700 or $400. As if there aren't enough rules already!

  25. They new "rules bound" world will become tomorrow's reality … but the more "rules" there are, the more costly it becomes to "do business". There never seems to be enough of that good old fashioned "common sense" applied.

    Like you suggest people will react and make changes. Those changes will create unforeseen impacts that will require more changes.

    Ouch!

  26. They new "rules bound" world will become tomorrow's reality … but the more "rules" there are, the more costly it becomes to "do business". There never seems to be enough of that good old fashioned "common sense" applied.

    Like you suggest people will react and make changes. Those changes will create unforeseen impacts that will require more changes.

    Ouch!

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