Premier ‘outraged’ over controversial expenses of AHS CFO
Published Friday, August 3, 2012 12:17PM MDT Last Updated Friday, August 3, 2012 7:26PM MDT
The premier of Alberta says she is outraged after expense reports released by Alberta Health Services for Executive Vice-President and CFO Allaudin Merali, showed claims totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I think these numbers are terribly high and if AHS had not dealt with him then the Government of Alberta would have,” Premier Redford told CTV News by phone from London Friday.
AHS announced CFO Allaudin Merali had been released from his job, after the organization received a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPP) act earlier this year, for records of expense claims for Merali, from his days as VP and CFO of the former Capital Health Region.
The documents contained 146 expense claims, dated between January 2005 and August 2008.
The claims totaled $346,208, and were released on July 27, 2012. On Wednesday, they were posted publicly.
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.
CTV News has learned there will be no police investigation into the expenses, and no money will be paid back, because the expenses were all within Capital Health policy at the time.
The acting CEO told media Wednesday the decision to release Merali was made in consultation with AHS’ President and CEO Dr. Chris Eagle, who is currently on vacation.
A day later, a member of Alberta Health Services’ board, Sheila Weatherill, resigned following news of Merali’s departure.
Weatherill had signed off on many of Merali’s expense claims. She previously served as Capital Health’s President and Chief Executive Officer in Edmonton from 1996 until 2008.
The premier said if Weatherill had chosen not to resign, then the province would have removed her from the board.
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.
“These were business decisions that were made in the Capital Health Region system some five years ago, well before I was even elected. And I am bringing change to these organizations. We know that in Alberta Health Services now that there are strict controls in place with respect to these sort of expenses,” said Redford.
The Auditor General will review the organization's 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.
“We’ve asked the Auditor General to take a look at this further to make sure they are as strict as they possibly can be because these are taxpayers’ dollars and we have to be able to have confidence as taxpayers that these expenses, any expenses, that are claimed are legitimate and are advancing the purposes and the goals of the government and the organization. And I’m very disappointed in this conduct and I think it’s totally unacceptable,” Premier Redford added.
The expenses will be posted on the AHS website, and are to be updated quarterly.
As for severance, Weatherill will not be getting any, in the past she received $1.5 million when Capital Health and eight other health regions in Alberta were dismantled to form AHS.
Merali’s severance is currently being negotiated, although there has been speculation that he could be paid one year’s severance, which would be more than $400,000.
With files from Kevin Armstrong