Only half of former health finance boss’s expenses fully compliant
EDMONTON — Only about half of the $370,000 in expenses filed by former Alberta health executive Allaudin Merali were within guidelines and backed up by receipts, an audit has found.
In a document released Thursday, auditors for Alberta Health Services concluded that $100,000 spent by the former Capital Health chief financial officer may have been OK, but lacked any sort of supporting documentation. Another $70,000 in Merali’s expenses either weren’t covered by a policy or auditors simply couldn’t tell if they were covered or not.
Auditors said Merali claimed about $5,600 that shouldn’t have been expensed, including $2,300 to install a phone in his car.
Stephen Lockwood, chairman of the Alberta Health Services board, said he wouldn’t comment on Merali’s expenses because Captial Health was disbanded when the province moved to one provincial health board in 2009.
Alberta Health Services “today is not accountable for decisions made before Alberta Health Services was created,” he said in a statement accompanying the audit.
The audit covered the period of 2005-2008, when Merali was chief financial officer of Capital Health. He later became chief financial officer for Alberta Health Services, a job he left when his expenses became public.
The audit details a list of lavish perks that were approved, including a $900-a-month car allowance, business-class travel and restaurant meals for which no records of who attended or what was discussed were kept. Merali also charged for mileage, despite his car allowance.
Merali billed more than $4,300 in travel expenses for which no record of authorization exists. His total car expenses over the three years, including car washes, repairs and insurance, came to more than $73,000. He spent more than $27,000 on food and beverages in Edmonton alone with full approval of Capital Health.
The audit notes most of Merali’s expenses were approved by Capital Health CEO Sheila Weatherill, who resigned from the board of Alberta Health Services after news stories about the expense claims.
Another internal audit was released Thursday involving the expenses of four Alberta Health Services executives who held positions with the former Calgary Health Region.
It found that $5,100 out of a total in $234,948 in expenses were “non-compliant.”
“I would be concerned if I thought these expense claims were more than oversights or clerical mistakes,” Lockwood wrote in his statement. “In my mind, the integrity of these executives is not in question.”
He said the claims that didn’t meet guidelines will all be reimbursed.