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Expense audit shows thousands expensed outside of standing policies
Julia Parrish, CTV Edmonton
Published Thursday, December 13, 2012 2:42PM MST
Last Updated Thursday, December 13, 2012 7:10PM MST
The highly anticipated results of an audit into the spending of a former AHS executive were released Thursday – and showed hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending was covered, without supporting documentation or specific policies for it.
The external audit was announced months ago – after the lavish expenses of a former Alberta Health Services executive were revealed.
The results identified $368,000 in expenses from former AHS CFO Allaudin Merali, which added $57,000 to the total since August.
The audit found $5,613 in expenses was not compliant with expense rules at the time – including the payment of $2,303 for a blue tooth phone kit, and nearly $600 for a flight for Merali’s wife.
As for his other claims, $62,800 in expenses were covered – but no policy was found to support it – and $103,000 in charges was signed off on, but documents to support the expenses were not found.
Merali’s spending made news in the summer, when his extravagant expense claims were revealed in the summer – where it was found he spent more than $300,000 on a variety of goods and services, including opera tickets, expensive wine, car expenses and meals at expensive restaurants.
After the news broke, Merali was fired for his lavish spending – and the former CEO of Capital Health who signed off on his claims, Sheila Weatherill, resigned from her post as a board member for AHS.
Now, AHS said there are no further plans to deal with that case – and it’s time to move on.
“There is nothing here that we have to hide,” AHS Board Chair Stephen Lockwood said Thursday. “But we are not going backwards because that is not us.”
Merali will not be asked to pay back the money he expensed, and Lockwood said the matter is considered closed.
The Minister of Health said the case has served as an example for future expense policies.
“We had the independent review, and I wanted to be transparent about it and the information has been released,” Minister Fred Horne said. “For me, what is important is today and the policies we have in place are much more stringent.”
Current policy outlines rules for expenses, and goes into detail on what is acceptable to submit – such as rental vehicles and airfare, and what is not acceptable, such as bills for alcohol.
Plus, any expense approvals must go through three different people before employees are reimbursed.
Horne’s confidence in the present system is echoed by Lockwood – who said he thinks money should be spent on future healthcare, and not on dealing with problems in the past.
“I’m going to put my efforts and the money that the government gives us to move the healthcare system forward today,” Lockwood said.
In addition to the audit into Merali’s past spending, a second audit was also conducted on the expenses of current staff.
In that audit, few discrepancies were found – and any discrepancies that were identified were voluntarily repaid.
With files from Dez Melenka
Alberta's health system CFO Allaudin Merali resigned following revelations of lavish spending of taxpayer money.