Alberta health official who billed for Mercedes repair won't get severance
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, August 6, 2012 7:36PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 6, 2012 10:49PM EDT
EDMONTON -- A senior health official in Alberta who stepped down last week over questionable expenses won't be receiving severance.
Alberta Health Services announced Monday that its former chief financial officer, Allaudin Merali, won't be getting a farewell payout.
Documents showed Merali filed expenses totalling $346,000 when he worked for the now-defunct Capital Health Region from 2005-09.
The expenses included meals in fancy restaurants and $1,750 for repairs to his Mercedes.
After working for Capital Health, Merali went to work in Ontario as a health consultant, but documents there revealed he was among a number of health consultants charging thousands of dollars to taxpayers for meals and perks.
In Merali's case, those expenses were $76,000 a month.
"If Albertans are going to have confidence in our health care system, it is imperative that they know we are doing everything we can to ensure we never see something like this again," Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne said Monday in a news release.
Horne also announced Monday that he has ordered Alberta Health Services to hire an independent firm to conduct a forensic audit of Merali's expenses.
Horne said he has also told the health agency to expand the audit if other questionable practices and expenses are uncovered.
The question of whether Merali would receive severance has been a hot political topic in Alberta. When the expenses controversy erupted last week, acting Alberta Health Services CEO Chris Mazurkewich would not say if Merali was fired or if he quit, adding that the severance pay was still to be worked out.
Merali went to Ontario after Alberta merged Capital Health and other regional health boards into one board, Alberta Health Services, in 2009.
Despite the controversy in Ontario, Alberta Health Services hired Merali. Horne has admitted he didn't know about Merali's previous troubles in Ontario or if the Alberta Health Services board knew anything either.
Sheila Weatherill, who ran Capital Health when it approved Merali's claims, resigned from the Alberta Health Services board last week after Merali's departure.
Catherine Roozen, acting chairwoman of the Alberta Health Services board, said Monday that the forensic audit that Horne announced will be released to the public.
"Since the creation of Alberta Health Services, the board has been consistent in its commitment to set the highest standards and expectations for AHS. Our responsibility is to ensure those standards have and will be met," Roozen said in a news release.
Premier Alison Redford has said she is outraged that Merali racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses.
The health agency announced last week that it has asked the province's auditor general to review its policies and practices.
It also promised to publicly post records of paid expenses for the CEO, and the executive vice-presidents and senior vice-presidents that report directly to the CEO, as well as the board, on its website in the coming weeks.
In Ontario, documents revealed Merali billed taxpayers $2,750 a day on top of a $75 per diem, rent on an Ontario apartment, repeated flights to and from Edmonton, expensive meals, and $14.95 drinks at Toronto's Fairmont Royal York Hotel.