Audit finds half of senior AHS official's expenses non-compliant

An audit has found only about half of the $370,000 in expenses filed by the former Alberta health executive were within guidelines and backed up by receipts.

CBC investigation found senior AHS official spent thousands on high-end restaurants

An extensive audit into the $370,000 in expenses claimed by a former Alberta Health Services executive has found that much of that amount was within the department’s guidelines and verified by receipts.

A CBC investigation found that former Capital Health chief financial officer Allaudin Merali charged thousands of dollars for expensive meals, flights and accessories for his car.

An external audit, released Thursday, found that between 2005 to 2008,  $103,302 in claims were not accompanied with the proper supporting documentation, which was Capital Health Region policy at the time.

Another $70,000 in Merali's expenses either weren't covered by a policy or auditors couldn't tell if they were covered or not.

Further claims totalling $5,613 were against AHS policies - including $2,300 used to install a phone in his car.

Merali was fired after the expenses came to light.

"That was in the past and that's someone that's no longer with the group," said AHS Chair Stephen Lockwood.

Merali won't have to pay back money

The audit doesn’t cover any of Merali’s expense claim after 2008, the year that Capital Health board was dissolved.

Lockwood said there is no intention of looking into Merali’s expenses past that year. He said resources are better spent  making sure the same thing doesn’t happen in the future. 

"We've gone through quite an extensive review of expenses, and the policy now is in place. And it will be refined, as we get more and more information. ... We're not going backwards."

He also said Merali won’t be forced to pay back the improper expenses.

It’s a decision that doesn’t sit well with some Opposition members.

Wildrose health critic Heather Forsyth said it is a double-standard, in light of others who have had to pay questionable expenses back, like Tourism Minister Christine Cusanelli.

"I guess it's OK for the government to pay things back but it's not OK for Alberta Health Services," she said.

Lockwood said steps have been taken to prevent improper expenses in the future, including having them double-checked by other departments and having some executive claims posted online.

With files from The Canadian Press