Public health CEO out following investigation into allegations of misspending and retaliatory firings

By Shannon Waters February 10, 2021

CEO Benoit Morin abruptly “left” the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) yesterday, shortly after a report into allegations of misspending and retaliatory executive firings was made public.

Ernst & Young’s John Bethel was hired in December to investigate concerns — including alleged spending on useless PPE, unnecessary renovations, lavish meals for staff and the firing of several executives — first reported by CBC in November.

Bethel found the firing of three executives in April 2020 at Morin’s behest were “at least in part related to a perceived lack of loyalty to, and/or friction” with Morin.

That includes the firing of PHSA’s chief internal auditor, who was terminated after he began looking into whether Morin was in conflict of interest over the purchase of PPE.

Bethel determined Morin instigated the auditor’s firing, but the board signed off on it.

No conflict of interest, but senior execs were ‘disconnected’ from other staff
Bethel found no evidence that Morin was in conflict of interest when he “personally initiated” the $7-million purchase of unusable PPE from a Montreal company.

After speaking with more than 40 PHSA employees and reviewing over 1.8 million documents, Bethel concluded there was no evidence Morin had a pre-existing relationship with the Montreal company — which filed for bankruptcy last month — but found there was a “disconnect” between Morin and other PHSA executives and staff over how best to handle the substandard order.

The disconnect resulted in executives launching legal action against the Montreal company without informing Morin or the board and internal friction over whether or not to write off the purchase.

Bethel also raised concerns about hiring and compensation decisions within the CEO’s office, the health authority’s work culture and the costly renovations to PHSA’s executive offices.

In December, the health ministry imposed stricter oversight of the authority, requiring it to obtain approval from the deputy health minister for all future internal capital spending and barring it from making any changes to its senior executive team until the end of March 2021.

The ministry also launched a “review and refresh” of all health authorities’ capital spending policies and recommended revisions to ensure business meeting expenses are “reasonable” and “consistent.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix said British Columbians need to “have confidence in the health-care system and know that it is being funded responsibly, transparently and in their best interest.”