EDMONTON, AB (August 1, 2012): The sudden departure of a health executive found to have charged taxpayers nearly $350,000 in lavish expense claims is a direct consequence of the entitlement culture that has been allowed to thrive under the current PC government, the Wildrose Official Opposition said today.
As first reported by CBC, Alberta Health Services Chief Financial Officer Allaudin Merali was only let go after it was revealed through an access to information request that he filed 146 expense claims totalling $346,208 between 2005 and 2009 while working for Capital Health. Among Merali’s claims, according to the CBC, was $1,750 for repairs to his 500-series Mercedes vehicle, $2,000 to have a phone installed in the car, and thousands in meals at luxury restaurants, including a $220-tab for himself and Health Minister Fred Horne in 2005. Merali’s outrageous expense claims point to a broader culture of entitlement that now characterizes the 41-year-old PC government, Wildrose Official Opposition Leader Danielle Smith said. “Unfortunately, this kind of entitlement and abuse of tax dollars is not out of place in PC Alberta,” Smith said. “When we’ve got defeated MLAs collecting millions in severance packages, health executives receiving fat bonuses for underperformance and the Premier herself approving huge pay hikes for cabinet, nobody should be surprised when instances like these come to light. The public service is merely following the example set by the government.” Wildrose Finance Critic Rob Anderson said it’s unacceptable that this kind of abuse of tax dollars was only discovered through an access to information request. “How these outrageous expenses managed to sail through the various levels of our health bureaucracy is mind-boggling,” Anderson said. “We need clear accountability measures and controls in place across government so Albertans can be confident their tax dollars aren’t being squandered on such frivolous things.” Wildrose Health Critic Heather Forsyth said the Merali incident is just another blow to AHS and their credibility as a health care provider. “We’ve got long-term care beds being shut down, unacceptable wait times for critical procedures and front-line staff scrambling to provide the best care they can,” Forsyth said. “Meanwhile, our health executives are collecting performance bonuses and filing extravagant expense claims.”