Hospital contract claim resurfaces

The ghost of 1997 allegations of an illegal conflict of interest by then EDS managers in respect of a contract with Capital Coast Health rose again in court last week.

The ghost of 1997 allegations of an illegal conflict of interest by then EDS managers in respect of a contract with Capital Coast Health rose again in court last week.

The allegations resurfaced in the Wellington High Court in a case brought against Inland Revenue before Justice Doogue. Former EDS employee Bill Inglis tried to substantiate a claim of tax-deductible status for legal expenses incurred in attempting to restore his reputation following a stoush with EDS management.

Inglis proclaims himself a whistleblower over the alleged conflict of interest by EDS. The company acted as tender manager for a project with Capital Coast Health [now Capital and Coast Health] for hospital management software when it already had a relationship with US-based Shared Medical Systems (SMS), one of the tenderers.

Audit New Zealand – for whom Inglis coincidentally now works – conducted an investigation of the alleged conflict of interest in 1999, and found no case to answer.

SMS eventually won the contract. Its system (also known as SMS), implemented with EDS assistance, is still in use at CCH, though the hospital organisation abandoned laboratory and pharmacy modules last year as unsuited to its needs.

SMS’s use at CCH has attracted criticism, with Ian Powell, executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, last year describing the purchase as a “bungle”. Health Waikato ditched the whole of SMS last year and there are no other users of the software in New Zealand.

Inglis raised questions in 1997 over EDS’s role in the CCH tendering process. He took these to his immediate manager, managers further up the organisation and executives at EDS in the US, without satisfaction.

Inglis claims that in consequence of his stirring, EDS first attempted to prove him a poor performer in order to sack him, then subsequently restructured his team to make him redundant. The findings of an Employment Court hearing in 1998 show a performance evaluation was begun, and that subsequently Inglis’s team was restructured, but EDS denies any connection between Inglis’s redundancy and his alleged whistleblowing.

The Employment Tribunal said at the time that if Inglis’s allegations were proven, they would constitute a criminal offence by EDS. It awarded him $7000 in respect of some irregularities it saw in the implementation of the performance evaluation process, but denied the rest of his claim.

Inglis pleaded last week that his legal expenses on Employment Court and Employment Tribunal hearings should be tax deductible because his reputation had been “smeared”.

Trying to clear his name by proving EDS to be in the wrong, he says, was an essential factor in ensuring the profitability of the one-man consultancy business he conducted between October 1997 and March 1998, after being dismissed from EDS.

Justice Doogue has reserved his decision.

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