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

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

A member of the Vernon Search and Rescue winch helicopter team pulls a skier who broke her leg at the gorge backcountry area east of Sicamous into the helicopter on Friday March 5. (Shuswap Search and Rescue/Facebook)
Search and rescue helicopter helps injured skier out of Shuswap backcountry

The Salmon Arm woman broke her leg, but was helped out of the bush thanks to radio communication.

SASCU is looking to celebrate its 75th anniversary with a legacy project, in the same way the Shuswap credit union marked its 60th by commissioning the apple sculpture at its downtown location. That artwork includes 14 apples honouring SASCU’s founding families. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap credit union to mark 75th anniversary with legacy project

SASCU will be looking for input from arts community, city

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Multiple people were injured at a Vernon home following an early-morning break-in Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Black Press file photo)
Multiple people left injured following break-and-enter in Vernon

Police believe the early-morning break-in was targeted and not a threat to the general public

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna General Hospital

One patient and one staff member on Unit have tested positive for the virus.

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

A Coldstream resident who found an owl struggling on her property in March 2021 is now spreading awareness of about the knock-on effects of rodent poisoning. (Kathy Renaud photo)
Okanagan owl ‘fighting for her life’ after ingesting rat poison

Coldstream resident warns against the use of rodenticide due to risk of secondary poisoning in raptors

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Fire ripped through a mobile home on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna on March. 6. (Phil McLachlan - West Kelowna News)
‘My whole life just went up in smoke’; Fire consumes Okanagan mobile home

RCMP confirmed that there were no injuries due to the fire

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

Most Read