In the House of Assembly Tuesday, Steve Clark explained how his taxpayer-funded salary shot up by 103 per cent in the space of 4 1/2 years.
© Joe Gibbons
Confederation Building under wraps. July 16.
Clark is the chief financial officer for the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information, which landed in hot water this year after Auditor General Terry Paddon reported on big pay increases and unconventional salary policies at the centre.
Clark isn’t specifically named, but Paddon reported that the chief financial officer’s salary went from $73,465 in 2008 up to $149,350 in 2012.
Speaking to the public accounts committee in the House of Assembly, Clark said the organization
was growing quickly during that period.
In 2007, the centre was spun off from Eastern Health and became an independent Crown corporation, and then it started growing in leaps and bounds as it went about its mandate — setting up an electronic health records system for the province.
“In 2007 we became a Crown agency. Up until that time I was the manager of finance. I have a finance background, and I also have other skills as well,” Clark explained. “So after 2007 I was given additional responsibilities to manage procurement, and as you can appreciate, there were a number of multimillion-dollar procurements, and I had expertise in that area so I assumed that responsibility.”
Job responsibilities grew
Later, his job responsibilities became even more complicated.
“We also now had a board. I needed to become the corporate secretary,” Clark said.
“There was a need for that. We also needed a project management office, and again, I needed to fill that role.”
As the responsibilities increased, Clark’s pay went up.
Speaking to MHAs in the House, NL Centre for Health Information CEO Mike Barron said that as the corporation grew, it was important for it to have the right people for the right jobs.
“These jobs are difficult to recruit (for), and it’s not about recruiting somebody with the title. It’s about recruiting somebody that can go to work immediately, as opposed to us bringing them up to scratch,” he said.
New Democrat MHA Christopher Mitchelmore described it differently. He called the big pay raises and lack of job competitions “quite appalling.”
Mitchelmore pressed again and again trying to determine how much the centre had paid for legal opinions on what it was doing with pay and hiring. He also wanted to know how much money is being spent paying employees at a higher rate than the rest of the public service.
Barron repeatedly said the centre is working hard to bring its policies in line with the rest of the public service, and to re-evaluate all workers’ jobs to make sure they’re getting paid according to government guidelines.
This is the second hearing for the public accounts committee looking at the centre.
Liberal chairman Jim Bennett said it’s a testament to the power of the auditor general and the committee to bring rogue government agencies in line.
“It also shows the need for a public accounts committee. Because if the auditor general just does the report and there’s no opportunity for it to go public in the way of a public accounts committee then people don’t get to see the whole thing,” he said. “What you’re seeing today is the AG’s office and the public accounts committee working in tandem.”
PC MHA David Brazil said he’s happy with what he’s seeing, when it comes to the centre getting back in line.
“We do realize that for whatever reason, they felt they had the authority to change the pay scales and the governance process,” Brazil said. “It’s been determined and made very clear by the minister that they have to fall in line with everything else that’s done by government.”
The public accounts committee will be holding hearings at Confederation Building until Thursday.