Health Minister Adrian Dix at a news conference in the rotunda at legislature in Victoria on Wednesday May 6, 2020. The head of a health authority in British Columbia has stepped down following allegations related to misspending on various items including $7 million for respirators that didn’t meet provincial standards. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Health Minister Adrian Dix at a news conference in the rotunda at legislature in Victoria on Wednesday May 6, 2020. The head of a health authority in British Columbia has stepped down following allegations related to misspending on various items including $7 million for respirators that didn’t meet provincial standards. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

CEO of B.C. health authority leaves organization after report into alleged misspending

Some of the respirators were deemed ‘counterfeit’

The head of a health authority in British Columbia is no longer with the organization following allegations related to misspending on various items including $7 million for respirators that didn’t meet provincial standards.

Benoit Morin’s departure was announced by the Provincial Health Services Authority on Tuesday, hours after the government released a report it commissioned by Ernst & Young.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said Morin was dismissed without cause and will get nine months’ severance pay in keeping with his contract, adding that interim CEO David Byers has been appointed to the position.

Dix said he received a report from his deputy health minister about allegations of misspending late last year and a series of recommendations were made about those concerns, especially related to renovations of executive offices.

“On Dec. 3 we made strong recommendations about what needed to happen about spending that I considered to be not appropriate and that action was taken. And now we’ve had this report that lays out other concerns. It puts some concerns to rest, it should be said very clearly with respect to Mr. Morin, but raises some other concerns.”

The Provincial Health Services Authority is in charge of several health-care programs including BC Cancer and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, which Dix noted plays a key role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ernst & Young says in its report that it looked into allegations of a conflict of interest due to a possible relationship between Morin and a Montreal company that sold respirators last spring.

It says some of the respirators were deemed “counterfeit” but its findings suggested there was no pre-existing relationship between Morin or anyone at the company, identified by the Health Ministry as Luminarie, which could not be reached for comment.

The original order for personal protective equipment last March was outside of the health authority’s normal practices, which would have included due diligence procedures on the vendor, the report says.

“The unusual nature of the procurement resulted from global challenges in sourcing (personal protective equipment) at the time and the CEO’s involvement in the original purchase, including directing staff to issue a multimillion-dollar deposit to the Montreal vendor.”

ALSO READ: B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate steady, 435 cases Tuesday

After the orders were placed, a document within the health authority identified an individual with the same name as the CEO and the name of the founder of the company that sold the respirators, leading to rumours within the health authority about a conflict of interest, the report says.

Staff attempted to negotiate with the supplier and wanted to start legal action shortly after problems with the respirators were discovered but the health authority’s board and Morin supported negotiations instead, it says.

But when negotiations failed, other executives decided to pursue legal action without informing Morin or the board of directors, the report says, adding the company filed for bankruptcy in January.

The report says Morin did not agree with his finance staff on whether a writeoff of about $7 million should be recorded in its financial statements for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.

He decided to dismiss three members of the executive team and the chief internal auditor last year because they raised concerns about the failed transaction with the company, it says.

“All of the employees’ departures were at least in part related to a perceived lack of loyalty to and/or friction with the CEO,” the report says.

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Williams Lake is asking for public feedback on whether it should explore the opportunity to host a Greater Metro Hockey League team in Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
City of Williams Lake seeks feedback on hosting junior hockey league team

A league expansion application in Quesnel is also pending

The campground will be inside Quesnel, where the public works building used to be. (City of Quesnel Riverfront Plan)
Quesnel municipal campground project receives $500K in provincial funding

$20 million in funding was given to shovel-ready tourism projects across the province

A timing board was set up so skiers could record their own times. Savannah Robinson, who competes in biathlon as well, got a chance to test her skiing power. She came in second in the 20km classic race. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Cariboo Ski Touring Club ‘So-Lo-Ppet’ results

The Quesnel cross-country skiing group was forced to change because of COVID

Members of the Quesnel RCMP Detachment wore their best pink shirts to support anti-bullying efforts. (Back row – Constable Sean Terry, Sergeant Rirchard Weseen, Constable Bob Kalman, Constable Alyssa MacNeil Middle – Constable Doug Erickson, Patti Thompson, Cindy Osip, Constable Cody Brown Front – Dana Bouchard, Staff Sergeant Darren Dodge, Kellie Hipkin) (Karen Powell Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel RCMP goes pink in effort to stop bullying

Officers and staff from the detatchment participated in Pink Shirt Day

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Most Read