AHS executive released over eye-opening expense reports
Published Wednesday, August 1, 2012 4:49PM MDT Last Updated Thursday, August 2, 2012 11:36AM MDT
Alberta Health Services officials announced Wednesday that the organization’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is leaving, after a Freedom of Information request uncovered a number of past expenses – totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
AHS officials said CFO Allaudin Merali is leaving the health organization, effective immediately.
Officials said AHS received a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPP) act earlier this year, for record of expense claims for Merali, from his days as VP and CFO of the former Capital Health Region.
The documents, relating to 146 expense claims, dated between January 2005 and August 2008 and totaling $346,208 were released on July 27, 2012. On Wednesday, they were posted publicly, and can be found online.
According to the released documents, Merali expensed a variety of goods and services – from smaller expenses such as parking meters, a bottle of water, and a slice of pizza, to pricey dinners at high-end restaurants (some with bills totaling more than $3,000), alcohol, and stays at international hotels.
“Mr. Merali’s responsibilities in previous roles in health care included developing relationships with external partners, businesses and service providers and acting as an official representative in numerous meetings and functions,” Acting CEO Chris Mazurkewich said in a press release. “This included hosting events as well as representing the organization locally, nationally and internationally.
“These were an integral and necessary part of his duties.”
Mazurkewich went on to say the organization and Merali became concerned that the records would take away from Merali’s ability to do his job – and that AHS’ integrity would be open to doubt – if the CFO were to stay.
The acting CEO said the decision was made in consultation with AHS’ President and CEO Dr. Chris Eagle, who is currently on vacation.
The Minister of Health issued a statement in response to the news, and said he was concerned about the expense claims.
“While travel and hosting expenses can be part of regular business, institutions such as AHS are funded by taxpayer’s dollars and as such, taxpayers rightly expect accountability,” Minister Fred Horne said in a release.
“Albertans must have confidence in AHS and trust that our health care dollars are being managed with the public interest in mind. I have been assured by AHS that policies and processes that are in place today are far more stringent than what was in place under the former Capital Health Authority.”
Officials said when AHS was created; the Board of Directors re-vamped existing policies, and requested new ones pertaining to travel, hospitality and hosting, and conflict of interest.
The Auditor General to review the organizations policies and practices in the wake of this incident, and announced plans to make expense records of the CEO, Executive Vice-Presidents and Senior Vice-Presidents – all of whom report to the CEO.
The expenses will be posted on the AHS website, and are to be updated quarterly.