IWK board looks to prevent 'unintended errors' in staff expenses
Hospital has asked auditors for guidance after thousands in personal expenses charged to CEO's credit card
The outgoing chair of the IWK Health Centre's board is asking the hospital's auditors for ways to prevent "unintended errors" in staff expenses after thousands in personal expenses were charged to the CEO's corporate credit card.
Bob Hanf said during an interview on Monday that the request was made at a June 6 meeting of the board's finance and audit committee.
The move comes after CBC News made a series of freedom of information requests about CEO Tracy Kitch's expenses, beginning in January after several discrepancies were discovered in expense reports posted online by the IWK.
The Halifax children's hospital subsequently said several of the charges to Kitch's card — some in the thousands — were made by mistake and reimbursed.
'Relentless focus' on transparency
Hanf said the requested guidance about error prevention is in keeping with a 2015 auditor general recommendation that Crown corporation and government agency CEO expenses be posted online.
"I think it's very important that people know that there's absolutely relentless focus on this issue," Hanf said of the board's commitment to transparency and oversight.
"There has been, there will continue to be."
Kitch said during an interview on Monday that expenses go through financial checks and balances before they are publicly reported and she does review the numbers.
Travel linked to job, CEO says
She reiterated a statement from the IWK's chief financial officer that the majority of expenses left off an initial expense report were related to trips tied to her annual educational travel allowance.
One of these expenses involved a trip to a California conference that was left off the initial expense report from the hospital but subsequently added to a revised report.
Kitch suggested that was because components of the trip were sponsored by a third-party vendor. It wasn't until the revised expense report was prepared that the trip was discovered and added as costing $3,176.55.
Kitch said the travel she does is always "critically linked" to the health centre's strategic plan. However, information from the IWK released to CBC News showed $4,941.49 in personal travel between April 2016 to December 2016.
The hospital said those charges were reimbursed.
Incorrect charges included iTunes, Netflix
Kitch said reimbursements are made as soon as incorrect charges are identified in consultation with the hospital's finance department. Such is also the case, for example, with charges on Kitch's corporate card related to a car service, iTunes and Netflix.
A hospital spokesperson on Monday evening clarified that a $3,200 charge made to the card at The Bay in November was made to the wrong credit card and was reversed following an investigation by RBC. The spokesperson said there was never a charge incurred by the CEO or the IWK.
Last week, Health Minister Randy Delorey said he would advise the IWK's board of available government resources, such as the internal audit department, that could help review and assess practices at the hospital.
No financial improprieties
Kitch did not directly explain how personal expenses found their way into the report, but said any personal travel expenses are related only to her and have been reimbursed.
Hanf said the board has absolute faith in the health centre's leadership team and the systems in place to keep track of financial dealings.
"Let me assure you — there has not been any financial improprieties whatsoever."