Alberta reviewing expenses, hiring

EDMONTON — Alberta says it is reviewing its government expense and hiring policies after two senior health executives quit over lavish claims worth $346,000.

EDMONTON — Alberta says it is reviewing its government expense and hiring policies after two senior health executives quit over lavish claims worth $346,000.

The review is to be conducted by Alberta’s information commissioner and Don Scott, associate minister of accountability.

“I am leading an initiative that will result in greater transparency on travel and expenses, with stricter reporting requirements for cabinet ministers, as well as executives in government and in agencies, boards and commissions,” Scott said in a release Wednesday.

The announcement was prompted by the resignation of Allaudin Merali last week as chief financial officer of Alberta Health Services over his expense claims when he worked for the now defunct Capital Health Region.

The claims filed between 2005 and 2009 included expensive restaurant meals, maintenance for his Mercedes and international trips.

Sheila Weatherill, his boss at the time who approved the expense claims, also stepped down last week from the board of Alberta Health Services.

The leader of Alberta’s Opposition Wildrose party called on Premier Alison Redford to fire Health Minister Fred Horne over the lavish expense claims and other problems in the health ministry.

Danielle Smith said Horne, who only took over the job of health minister last October, has lost the confidence of the public to properly manage Alberta Health Services.

“This is not the performance of a minister Albertans can trust with our most important government service,” Smith said in a release.

“If Premier Redford wishes to convince Albertans that she’s serious about fixing health care after this latest and most egregious scandal, she should start by replacing the man who has consistently shown he is not the man for the job.”

Smith said Horne has also failed to resolve an ongoing contract dispute with Alberta physicians, improve services to seniors in long-term care homes or improve primary health clinics.

Horne’s press secretary said the minister would not respond to Smith’s calls.

Merali went to Ontario in 2009 after the Alberta government merged Capital Health and other regional boards into one superboard called Alberta Health Services.

While working in Ontario as a consultant he billed the province for expenses of up to $76,000 per month.

Alberta Health Services then hired Merali as its chief financial officer.

Scott said the review, which will also look at how rigorously the government screens the senior officials it hires, should reassure Albertans.

It will look at the models and best practises used by other jurisdictions.

“Albertans expect accountability on how their tax dollars are used and the premier has said the expenses of public officials must be held the highest possible level of scrutiny,” Scott said.

“These actions will ensure the government delivers on this commitment.”