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Orion Health asks for probe into "scandalous" Covid IT spend

Peter Griffin, Contributor. 06 May 2021, 12:25 pm

Tech leader and Orion Health chief executive Ian McCrae has requested the Auditor General undertake an audit review of the Ministry of Health's pandemic-related IT decisions.

The founder of the health software company has been on the warpath over the ministry's decision to spend up to $38 million on the National Immunisation Service technology platform, which is in development as core infrastructure to facilitate the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out programme.

McCrae last week went public with his objections about the project, but in his letter to Auditor General John Ryan today, alleged that "Covid was simply used to circumvent proper procurement and this has cost New Zealand hugely".

"At Orion Health, we saw first-hand that the Ministry of Health ignored their procurement processes and used false information in their business case to substantiate their rationale for flouting procurement processes," he wrote.

Orion Health helped develop the National Immunisation Register, which has been in place for around 20 years and has the products and platforms that could have served the new remit of vaccinating the entire population against Covid-19. 

But McCrae is mainly frustrated that local tech companies, in general, weren't invited to tender for the project, which may have resulted in $1 - 2 million in business for Orion according to its alternative upgrade plan, but which went to overseas vendors instead at a much greater cost.

"My request for a full audit review is about the principal of the situation, not a concern that we are missing out," wrote McCrae. 

"We continuously pitch and win work around the globe, and never come up against the vendors that were awarded this work in New Zealand. These vendors do not have experience dealing with health information."

McCrae claims that Orion and other local companies could have delivered the immunisation platform "faster and at a fraction of the cost". Orion, says McCrae, could have upgraded the existing National Immunisation Register for less than $50,000 and that it could have been live today.

"Additionally, we could have cheaply rolled out a number of enhancements and improvements that we have been proposing for several years to the National Immunisation Register system," writes McCrae.

"The normal checks and balances from a proper procurement never happened," McCrae concludes.

"For the reasons above, this project urgently needs an Audit Office review to determine accountability, prevent further wastage and to ensure that this does not happen again." 


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Chris Abbott 07 May 2021, 3:49 pm

"My request for a full audit review is about the principal of the situation, not a concern that we are missing out," wrote McCrae. "


Ian McCrae has a fair point.

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