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Firm given contracts to investigate health data breaches without competing

The British Columbia government paid $684,309.67 to the consulting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP to advise on the ministry of health's data breaches that became public in 2012.

The less than five-month contract was awarded and extended without allowing other firms to compete for the work because "an unforeseeable emergency exists," according to paperwork from Sept. 12, 2012 justifying the original direct award and released Jan. 8 in response to a freedom of information request.

"The contract is necessary in regards to an incident involving the potentially inappropriate sharing of Ministry data," the document said. "It is urgent that the Ministry understand and address the issues related to this incident and action remediation options identified to address any control weaknesses."

Former Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid announced the privacy breaches in September 2012, as well as concerns about contracting and conflicts of interest. She lost her seat in the May, 2013, election and has been replaced by Terry Lake.

The government's investigation led to the termination of seven health ministry employees and a stop on research contracts. It has also sparked five lawsuits and a grievance process on behalf of three of the former employees, one of whom was found dead in January, 2013 of suicide.

Deloitte produced a 22-page Security enhancement roadmap, which the ministry released last June at the same time that B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham reported on the breach saying the ministry lacked reasonable security to protect personally identifiable information from unauthorized access or disclosure.

A May 27, 2013 "notice of intent to contract" form says Deloitte LLP would be given a further $650,000 contract without having to compete. That contract would cover up until Sept. 30, 2013 and would be to help the ministry interpret, plan and implement the road map the firm produced.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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