Ombudsman slams Howard Associates’ ‘wholly unacceptable’ report
Ombudsman Arlene Brock has given a scathing assessment to the independent review of BHB’s management of the Island’s health system, describing it as a “wasteful and expensive lesson”.
The Ombudsman said the Howard Consultants report “breezes over the key concerns that led to the report in the first place” and suggested that the inspectors were more concerned about being retained by BHB for “the next gig” and “the blinding glint of gold” than giving an objective analysis of how the Island’s hospitals were being managed.
“I participated in the interview of the shortlisted consultants and agreed that Howard Associates had presented themselves best — as humble, serious and inclined to ask questions rather than razzle-dazzle with ‘consultant-speak’,” Ms Brock said in her assessment of the Clinical and Corporate Governance Review.
“From such an auspicious beginning through an excellent methodology, however, Howard Associates’ report simply does not reflect the wealth of information and insight that ought to have been obtained from embedding.
“I am very sorry to say that I am exceedingly disappointed with Howard Associates’ report. My conclusion is that the Howard Associates report is full of statements, conclusions and recommendations without evidence, examples, best practices or rationales. Further Howard Associates’ clear focus on the ‘next gig’ could well have compromised their report.
“In our very first meeting on November 5, I strongly counselled HA to beware of the impulse to focus on the ‘next gig’ or the urge to market their future services,” Ms Brock said.
“Such a focus would fully compromise their process and report. Indeed — this would verge on the unethical.
“Therefore, their first draft of February 18, 2013, with four obvious marketing hints for future contracts raised serious red flags.”
Highlighting a reference by the consultants to “the excellent teams at BHB”, Ms Brock said: “By itself, this comment will be the death knell of this report.”
The consultants also suggested that it would be a “smarter and much faster strategy” for the BHB to retain them to carry out an audit of operations, rather than have the audit conducted by the Auditor General.
Ms Brock slammed that suggestion as “the proverbial nail in the coffin”.
“What I suspected were snide attempts to denigrate the work of the Auditor General appear to have been in service of a further — potentially lucrative contract for HA (none of whom working on this job are even accredited public sector auditors).
“Poor structure, unfounded recommendations and a lack of analytical rigour amount to a wasteful and expensive lesson for us. Their deliberate and repetitive devaluing of Bermudian skills and insight — all for the blinding glint of gold — takes cynicism to another level and is wholly unacceptable.”
Ms Brock also questioned why the consultants originally submitted a report to her office on March 18, before submitting a revised report to the BHB on March 22 and a further, final ‘Rectification Report’ to the BHB almost one month later, on April 12. That final report was written after the consultants had received a critique of their March 18 report by the Ombudsman.
Ms Brock explained that the report she tabled yesterday in Parliament was based on her review of the original reports Howard Associates’ produced on March 18 and 22, 2013. Their March 22 report, and the Ombudsman’s report, are available on the Ombudsman’s website www.ombudsman.bm. Ms Brock encouraged the public to download a copy of her report, as there are a limited number of hard copies available at her office.