Alberta Politics

allaudin merali’s extravagant expenses and severance package a blow to alberta health services, redford government.

The highest echelons of Alberta Health Services are once again being rocked by a firestorm of public criticism after it was revealed that AHS Chief Financial Officer Allaudin Merali had claimed more than $345,000 in expenses to the former Capital Health regional authority.

Allaudin Merali Alberta Health Services
Allaudin Merali

Mr. Merali was fired by AHS hours before the Canadian Boardcasting Corporation aired the story about how he claimed thousands of dollars on lavish meals at restaurants, bottles of wine, catering, and an expensive phone for his Mercedes Benz car. Shifting quickly into damage control mode, AHS soon after released Mr. Merali’s expense claims on their website.

Making the controversy even more outrageous, Mr. Merali is expected to receive a severance package from AHS after his employment was terminated with cause (even AHS CEO Chris Eagle does not have this provision included in his contract).

The story was uncovered by intrepid CBC reporter Charles Rusnell, who has become one of Alberta’s star investigative journalists after uncovering cases of pork-barrel politics and scores of illegal donations made by public institutions to the Progressive Conservative Party.

The controversy claimed a second high-ranking AHS official yesterday as former Capital Health CEO Shiela Weatherill resigned from the AHS board of directors. Seen as a voice of credibility after her successful time as the CEO of Capital Health until it was merged into AHS in 2008, Ms. Weatherill was appointed to the AHS board after the departure of controversial former AHS President and CEO Stephen Duckett in late 2010. Ms. Weatherill was Mr. Merali’s boss when he served as CFO of Capital Health, when many of the expense claims were made.

Fred Horne Alberta Health Minister
Fred Horne

Questions are also being raised about the role of Alberta’s current Ethics Commissioner, Neil Wilkinson, who served as chair of the Capital Health board of directors during Mr. Merali’s time as CFO of the former regional health authority.

The controversy is a blow for Premier Alison Redford‘s PC government, which was swept into office earlier this year after promising to breath new life into the four decade old government. To his credit, Health Minister Fred Horne responded quickly to the controversy and promised that future expenses for public officials at that level will be made public on a quarterly basis. With the damage already done, the largest measure of response the government has is to ensure this does not happen again.

As others have already pointed out, public funds used to fill these types of extravagant expense claims only take money away from where it belongs – on the front-lines of our public health care system.

17 replies on “allaudin merali’s extravagant expenses and severance package a blow to alberta health services, redford government.”

There has been so much discussion about rules and policies. They are important. But, and to me this is almost more important, what about sound judgement and ethical management? There is always ways to game or get around rules, or to default to a position that, “It was permissable under the rules of the day.” But, why would anyone, in a position of trust spending public sector dollars, feel that it was appropriate or that they were entitled to such perks. I worked in the system for many years, and did my best to manage the budgets for which I was entrusted in an ethical manner. If I was on a business trip and had wine with a meal, I carefully and explicitly netted out that expense from any meal claims. I did not think about the rules per se, but what I felt was the right thing to do. I also needed to lead by example. Was it right for me to act in one way when I expected my staff to act in another? I continue to want/desire/aspire/hope for leaders who are ethical in all that they do. I know there are many. But, we need to obliterate this sense of entitlement that is far to evident among people in senior management roles both within the public and private sectors.

Dave, Board members do not review operational matters like expenses of executives below CEO level, so any “questions” about Wilkinson are asinine. The real question is what was Weatherill doing? Clearly, she wasn’t exercising her duty of care when reviewing executive expenses.

Just to set the record straight, the expenses in question were not “claimed … to the province-wide health authority”. They were claimed to Capital Health some time before the formation of AHS. There were apparently also some questionable claims made by this individual during his tenure with Ontario’s eHealth agency.

It would be interesting to see what kind of expenses Merali has claimed during his three months with AHS.

Also, he was hired as the AHS’s CFO but, it has been noted that, after one of the audits of the Capital Health books the Auditor General pointed out that some of the reporting was like “cooking the books”.

So, one person spends the taxpayers $$, the other once provides coverup and then what? Nobody has a clue what happens to hundreds of thousands of public dollars?? There are no audits, no financial reviews, nothing? What is this – loose change?

This is what happens when you give people power.

This is also why the Health Budget has balooned. It’s the top heavy and corrupt administration, not the little old lady who goes to emergency to treat a cold.

Albertans were dumb enough to vote for more of the same. Now they’re getting it. I guess people enjoy corruption and theft of the public purse more than they could stand the thought of Premier Smith having had some bigoted candidates (who weren’t going to win their own seats anyways).

Hold a proper indePendent PUBLIC JUDICIAL INQUIRY. With the mountain of slime blotting out the sun, it will produce reults very quickly. Theskeletons are practically out in plain sight. Get it done, people need to be arrested and imprisoned.

I give a lot of credit to the CBC’s Charles Rusnall for exposing Merali and Weatherill. This time at least the other media picked up on the story which was not the case when CBC exposed the university and college presidents and boards for funneling money to the PC Party.

Unfortunately, Weatherill is no doubt correct in claiming that the norms for public expenditure at the top in Capital Health were in line with what happens throughout the public service. She might have added the private sector to the picture since there is abundant evidence that, on top of high salaries and commissions, the guys at the top in the private sector spend lavishly and the corporations they head write it all off for taxes.

It’s not that the people who get to the top are smarter than the rest of us. They appear instead just to be more entitled and to be able to manipulate the system to their own advantage. Unfortunately the corporate media have almost no interest in exposing what “really goes on” and so these tip-of-the-iceberg reports from time to time are about all we can expect. But thanks to Charles and CBC for their efforts on behalf of the rest of us.

Why are these stories being dug up by CBC? Is no other news org/paper/radio interested? Perhaps it is because the CBC actually has a useful function ( at least useful if you are not in gov’t) …. hmmmm is there a motive behind the Harpertrons cutting the cbc’s budget?
Am I paranoid?

So people, while I don’t condone what this doodad did, but did he do all this in Alberta in three months? The press don’t tell you all this is what he did in Ontario, and when so many people are hired every month, sometimes a prick slips through. Gotta love the Herald shilling for the banjo pickers.

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