A few months before FH Health was tapped by the province to run 10 GTA vaccine clinics, each member of its board of directors made the maximum allowable donation to the Progressive Conservative Party under their own names — and all within a few days of each other.
The company was then chosen earlier this month by Solicitor General Sylvia Jones’ ministry to run booster clinics for education workers without a competitive bidding process.
In reaction to Queen’s Park Today’s reporting, the NDP is now requesting auditor general Bonnie Lysyk investigate why a firm with “no discernible history of vaccination provision” was given a sole-sourced contract to inoculate Ontarians.
According to Elections Ontario data, FH Health president and board vice-chair Melody Adhami-Dorrani, along with director David Diamond, each donated $1,000 to the PCs on September 3, before topping off their contributions by another $2,300 each on September 15 and September 16, respectively. Board chairman and company co-founder Sepehr Seyedi donated the maximum allowable contribution of $3,300 on September 17, and board treasurer Michael Kimel followed suit by making an identical donation on September 20.
When Queen’s Park Today asked the privately owned company why its board contributed more than $13,000 combined to the governing party, a spokesperson denied it was a co-ordinated decision by FH Health.
“Individuals, in their personal capacity, may have chosen to donate to political parties on all sides over the years,” said spokesperson Patrick Kasebzarif in an emailed statement to Queen’s Park Today. “In every case they have done so on their own and most certainly not at the behest or suggestion of the company.”
Three of the four directors also have histories of supporting the Ontario Liberals, although those donations involved much less money and were made years apart from one another. For instance, Seyedi supported Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca’s 2020 leadership campaign with a donation of $400.
FH Health had ‘existing relationship’ with Ontario Health
Before the province halted mass Covid testing in December, FH Health had been providing provincially funded (free) tests to the public, in addition to for-profit tests that cost up to $350.
It’s unclear when last year the firm was authorized to start providing provincially funded testing services, but it is one of few private, non-pharmacy companies to ever be recruited to do so.
The Ministry of Health told Queen’s Park Today the company got the gig because it “was successful in a competitive procurement process conducted by Ontario Health to augment Ontario’s COVID-19 mobile testing capacity.”
Soon after schools closed in early January, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the partnership with FH Health to open vaccine clinics in their existing testing clinics with an eye to getting teachers and students shots.
However, this time there was no competitive bidding process, per the Ministry of the Solicitor General.
“FH Health already had an existing relationship with Ontario Health to deliver COVID-19 testing capacity,” said a ministry spokesperson. “The Ministry of the Solicitor General entered into an emergency procurement with FH Health to establish additional vaccine clinics as they already had physical capacity and Health Human Resources supports in place.”
NDP calls for auditor general probe
NDP Ethics critic Taras Natyshak said it “looks shady as heck” that Premier Doug Ford opted to privatize the work of delivering booster shots through a “sole-sourced contract” to a company led by PC donors. “Ford has some explaining to do,” Natyshak said.
On Wednesday morning, Natyshak sent a letter to the auditor general requesting she investigate the government’s deal with FH Health and how Ontarians got “on the hook for the contract with another PC-friendly supplier.”
“I am deeply concerned, especially following your previous findings, about another sole-sourced contract quickly awarded potentially without proper scrutiny,” he wrote to Lysyk, pointing to a special report on Covid response her office released last May that found the government wasted taxpayer money by entering into sole-sourced contracts for items like testing kits.
“I am concerned similar decision making may have occurred in this instance with FH Health,” said Natyshak, noting the firm only registered in Ontario after the pandemic began.
Kasebzarif denied the board’s donations played any part in FH Health being selected to run the vaccine clinics.
“Any allegation that FH Health has improperly donated or attempted to influence the government through political donations is completely false and unfounded,” he said.
Two weeks later, FH Health no longer seems to be prioritizing students and teachers. Its website has hundreds of vaccine spots available to the general public, including in the Eaton Centre and at the Toronto Zoo.