Health inquiry no time for whitewash
The Redford government has announced plans to conduct an inquiry into expense claims at the former Capital Health Authority.
Following revelations that senior executive Allaudin Merali made huge expense claims, Health Minister Fred Horne says the probe will cover expenses from 2005-2008.
“Like all Albertans, I was outraged to learn of these events,” said Horne. “But unlike all Albertans, I am accountable to them for the operation of our health-care system.
“Accordingly, I have taken the actions to get to the bottom of what happened and to put measures in place to ensure no recurrence of such unacceptable practices.”
According to Horne, those “actions” will include not only an examination of the specifics of the Merali case, but will also give the independent audit firm conducting the probe the authority to “expand its review should other questionable practices and expenses be uncovered.”
With the widespread public outrage that followed the Merali expense revelations – including front-page coverage by many media outlets – it’s not surprising that the Tories have announced that this inquiry will take place.
Official opposition leader Danielle Smith says the pressure is definitely on the Redford Tories to provide answers.
“Either Mr. Horne was aware of Merali’s questionable past and is now wrongly claiming ignorance to save his skin, or he really didn’t have a clue that the man he endorsed for controller and later allowed to become Superboard CFO had a documented history of ripping off taxpayers,” said Smith.
“This kind of sloppy background work is hardly the performance of a minister who exercises good judgment or who knows what’s happening in his department.”
What exactly the inquiry will uncover of course remains to be seen. Nevertheless, despite the final outcome, several big questions will remain.
First, with the Capital Health Authority being only one of several health authorities operating in the province in the 2005-2008 period, were there similar gross overcharges made and approved in West Central Alberta? And if so, what PC MLAs knew about them and did nothing?
Second and perhaps more importantly, are such claims continuing in 2012, despite the fact that ordinary Albertans continue to face long waits for care in a health system chronically short of cash?
“If Albertans are going to have confidence in our health-care system, it is imperative that they know we are doing everything we can to ensure we never see something like this again,” said Health Minister Horne.
If the Redford government really does want Albertans to “have confidence in our health-care system” then an independent review of all AHS executive expenses and Tory MLA oversight is needed and needed now.