Redford outraged at spending allegations

EDMONTON — Premier Alison Redford says she is outraged that a senior Alberta Health Services official racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses for everything from fancy meals to car repairs.

EDMONTON — Premier Alison Redford says she is outraged that a senior Alberta Health Services official racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses for everything from fancy meals to car repairs.

Chief financial officer Allaudin Merali stepped down this week after documents showed he filed expenses totalling $346,000 when he worked for the Capital Health Region.

That total included $1,750 for repairs to his Mercedes.

Redford says she thinks the numbers are “terribly high.”

She says if Alberta Health Services had not dealt with Merali, she says her government would have.

Redford says if AHS board member Sheila Weatherill had not resigned in the wake of Merali’s departure, the province would have removed her from the board.

Weatherill had signed off on many of Merali’s expense claims when she was chief executive officer of the Captial Health Region.

Health Minister Fred Horne has noted that Merali’s expenses fell within allowable guidelines at the time.

However, when the health regions were dissolved and Alberta Health Services created, the board of directors re-vamped existing policies, and requested new ones pertaining to travel, hospitality 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,” Redford said Friday.

“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.

“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.”

Horne has said he didn’t know about Merali’s previous troubles over similar spending when he was a health consultant in Ontario three years ago.

In Ontario, documents revealed Merali was among a number of health consultants charging thousands of dollars to taxpayers for meals and perks — in his case $76,000 a month.

Opposition politicians and health lobby groups have said Horne should have known about Merali’s background, given that he had been hired as AHS’s chief financial officer.

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