March 18th, 2024

Auditor General should investigate “YourHealthNS” procurement deal

HALIFAX – The Premier’s “more, faster” approach to health care has led to a record 156,000 Nova Scotians on the family practice waitlist, long waits for emergency care with many emergency rooms closed daily across Nova Scotia, and little to show for billions in spending. Today, the Nova Scotia NDP is calling on the Auditor General to review the $50 million alternative procurement deal with Think Research for the “YourHeathNS” app.

“Given the significant promotion, attention, and advertising resources the Premier has invested in YourHealthNS, and the unusually high amount of this alternative procurement, we believe the Auditor General should conduct a performance audit of YourHealthNS to determine if appropriate processes were used and if value for money was obtained,” said NDP Leader Claudia Chender. “This untendered contract is for a much larger amount than we typically see by the health authority. This, coupled with Houston’s changes to the governance of Nova Scotia Health in 2021 reversing its status as an arms-length health authority, means there is already a lack of transparency about how decisions get made. We have questions about why the contract was created this way and if this is really good value for money.”

The total value of alternative procurements (AltPs) by the NSHA, which bypassed the conventional transparent procurement process, was over $105 million in 2023. That’s double the amount of AltPs used in 2020 when the government spent $52 million. Auditor General Kim Adair recently called out the Houston government's growing use of alternative procurement in her Hogan Court report.

In that report, Adair wrote: “Conducting alternative procurements under inappropriate types and circumstances, results in an inappropriate circumvention of the procurement policy, a lack of transparency, fairness, and increases the risk the Province is not achieving value for money when spending taxpayer dollars"

With limited information provided by Houston or the NSHA, the Auditor General should review YourHealthNS to assess if Nova Scotians are getting value for money for this significant alternative procurement. The $49.6 million Think Research AltP is the largest reported sole source contract for the NSHA in 2023 by a significant amount, the next largest was $9.1 million.