On the surface, it would appear Nova Scotia may have missed the boat on 300-plus good-paying jobs.
A complaint filed to government by Evident, an Alabama-based electronic health record system provider, after it was excluded from this province’s One Person One Record (OPOR) procurement included a big offer.
Evident said they were going to locate a new head office for international distribution of their electronic record keeping system in Halifax.
“Our intent was to establish an International Head Office in Halifax, to not only service the Nova Scotia healthcare system, but also to serve future clients across Canada, Europe and the Caribbean,” reads the complaint obtained by The Chronicle Herald.
“Part of our planned expansion into Nova Scotia also includes a Digital Health Centre of Excellence to advance health research and planning, and to collaborate directly with Nova Scotia Health and the local community to develop and enhance Thrive’s current functionality, using NS as the lab to develop exportable IT/IP locally, as well as to position as an anchor client in the health ICT sector in Canada.”
A source told The Chronicle Herald that over 300 jobs would have been created in Nova Scotia between the Digital Health Centre of Excellence and the international head office.
But Evident never got to bid on the tender for what will be one of this province’s largest public sector procurements.
In June 2017, Evident was left out of the final tender after not scoring high enough in the qualifying round.
Claims of rigging
The One Person One Record procurement is to supply an electronic health record system that will see each Nova Scotian have an individual health-care record that can be accessed wherever and whenever needed from any part of the health-care system.
Evident’s allegations of a rigged process favouring industry heavyweights Cerner and AllScripts, which it claims were given inside access to high level staff at the Nova Scotia Health Authority, were outlined in Thursday’s Chronicle Herald story by Paul Schneidereit.
The same complaint also claims Evident was lured to this province by Nova Scotia Business Inc.
“The province’s economic development agency, NSBI, convinced us that Nova Scotia could serve as a perfect location for our first move outside the US,” reads the complaint.
“… NSBI stated at the start of our journey that any procurement this size (OPOR) would require significant Economic Development for the province.”
Beyond NSBI’s attempts to bring them to Nova Scotia, Evident claimed to have been emboldened by the Liberals’ 2016 speech from the throne, which advocated harnessing government procurement to economic development.
Evident's official complaint:
Also, OPOR’s request for supplier qualifications cited economic development.
“OPOR is a strategic priority for the Province and is anticipated to be one of the largest IT-enabled transformation projects to take place in Nova Scotia’s history,” reads the government’s January 2017 request for supplier qualifications.
“Given the size and scope of the OPOR project, the Province hopes to achieve additional economic benefits that will help it meet these above-mentioned priorities. These benefits may also include, but are not limited to, rural development, direct employment, engagement with local suppliers, research and development, and direct capital investments.”
Evident said in its complaint it had put together a consortium, which included Hitachi Data Systems, Bell Canada, KPMG, MOBIA Technologies Innovations Inc. and DavisPier Consulting, to not only meet the technical requirements of the One Person One Record procurement but also prepare a plan for major international expansion based out of a head office in Halifax. All in, Evident said the members of the consortium spent $8 million preparing their proposal.
Evident’s complaint claimed encouragement from NSBI and the province’s chief procurement officer for its proposal, but said economic development carried little weight in the request for supplier qualifications round. Evident wasn’t allowed to bid on the final tender that went out in June 2017.
We still believe Atlantic Canada has the opportunity to leverage a procurement of this magnitude to develop an entirely new Digital Health Innovation District.
NSBI would not acknowledge having had contact with Evident.
“Our professional practice is that NSBI does not discuss whether any relationship has existed or if anything has been in the works with a company — that’s not how good business is conducted,” read a written response by NSBI to questions from this newspaper.
“… Provincial procurement is a separate process from NSBI and the work that NSBI does. If there were an occasion for the two things to happen in parallel, it would be up to NSBI to ensure that a company we are working with is adding incremental export-focused economic benefit in Nova Scotia.”
The province meanwhile maintains that the OPOR procurement process has been fair and transparent.
“Consideration was given to economic development as part of the evaluative criteria, and posted in the RFSQ, along with multiple other criteria,” reads a response from Executive Council spokesman Brian Taylor.
“The criteria was clearly laid out in the documents and posted publicly. A fairness monitor was in place throughout the process and found: ‘It is our professional opinion that the process was carried out in a fair, open and transparent manner. The Government acted in a highly transparent manner at all stages, and concluded the process with the utmost integrity.’ The province accepts their conclusion.”
In response to The Chronicle Herald’s questions about the complaint, Evident issued this statement:
“Evident became aware of the OPOR opportunity in 2015 and have built some great relationships with local N.S. companies and individuals within government. We still believe Atlantic Canada has the opportunity to leverage a procurement of this magnitude to develop an entirely new Digital Health Innovation District. Evident is currently making good progress in the region and other sectors in Canada,” the company statement said.
“We trust the information you referenced in Evident’s formal complaint regarding OPOR could answer any remaining questions you might have about our experience in N.S.”