Alluadin Merali: Your guide to the Twilight Zone

The day that Alluadin Merali left his post as CFO of Alberta Health Services (AHS) was the day Albertans entered the Twilight Zone.  Like the ordinary folk in Rod Sterling’s TV show who find themselves thrust into a surreal alternate universe we watch in amazement as the PC government spins and gyrates in the public relations nightmare soon to be known as the Merali Affair.

Mr Merali parted company with AHS just hours before the intrepid CBC was going to expose the expenses he claimed during his tenure as CFO of Capital Health Region (now part of AHS).  Between 2005 and 2008 Mr Merali, then Executive VP and CFO, claimed $346,208 for “expenses” ranging from a new car phone for his Mercedes to two butlers at $30/hour.  These expense claims were approved by his CEO, Sheila Weatherill.

Our transition into the Twilight Zone began when the PC government and its agencies mistook public service for entitlement.  How else can we explain Health Minister Horne’s statement that Mr Merali’s expense claims were legitimate under the expense policies then in place at the Capital Health Region?

But Mr Horne’s validation of Mr Merali’s imprudent claims creates another conundrum.  If Mr Merali didn’t do anything wrong as CFO of the Capital Health Region why was he pushed out of his position as CFO at the AHS?

The AHS says Mr Merali is gone because the release of his expense records “put AHS and Mr Merali in a difficult position” and the AHS was concerned that “it would detract from his ability to act as CFO, and [had] taken these difficult but necessary steps to ensure public confidence”. *

In the Twilight Zone, people don’t get fired for terrible judgment which results in Albertans reimbursing them for personal expenditures like $500 of glasswork for the Mercedes.  They get fired because they embarrass the government.     

Minister Horne’s view that Mr Merali’s expense claims were legitimate is supported by Sheila Weatherill.  Ms Weatherill was CEO of the Capital Health Region.  She approved Mr Merali’s expense claims.  Ms Weatherill says “Capital Health had appropriate expenditure policies that were consistent with other public sector organizations”.**She made this statement when she resigned as director on the AHS board. 

Apparently in the Twilight Zone, a CEO overseeing a $2.5 billion organization is not expected to exercise common sense when presented with over the top expense claims.  If the claim fits within the policy (lord knows how) the taxpayer must pay.   However if the CEO’s lack of judgment comes to light four years later, the (now) ex-CEO is must resign her directorship of the board of the (now) successor to the (now) defunct Capital Region because … why?  Is it because her continued presence on the AHS board would be an embarrassment to the government?

It’s awfully dark out here in the Twilight Zone…are you still with me?  Good, let’s press on.  

Finance Minister Horner says the $346,208 Mr Merali claimed for reimbursement would never have been allowed under the government’s expense policies in existence at the time***Oh I get it.  In the Twilight Zone, it’s okay for a health region to spend $2.5 billion in taxpayers’ dollars implementing the government’s healthcare strategy in a way that violates the government’s own expense policies.

Cue the eerie music…the Merali Affair is about to get a whole lot weirder.  Mr Merali was hotly sought after by not one, but two, government agencies.  AHS successfully landed Mr Merali by beating a competing offer from Doug Horner, Finance Minister and President of the Treasure Board.  Mr Horner’s offer was for the post of Chief Controller.  Had Mr Merali accepted this offer he would have been responsible for all of the controllers for all of the government departments managing a $40 billion budget  (boggles the mind, doesn’t it).

Mr Horner says Mr Merali was his top choice because Mr Merali was experienced in international development and public organizations.  What Mr Horner fails to mention is that one of those public organizations was Capital Health and that during Mr Merali’s time as CFO, he and CEO Ms Weatherill were sharply criticized by the Auditor General for misleading auditing practices.  They had been warned for 3 consecutive years that their accounting practices were off side before the Auditor General resorted to censure.  Ms Weatherill brushed the incident aside with the comment that it was all a “misunderstanding”.

Furthermore, the Finance Minister and the AHS knew about the controversy surrounding Mr Merali’s involvement in the Ontario eHealth expense account scandal when they offered Mr Merali the top financial job in their respective organizations.  (Mr Merali was a consultant on the Ontario eHealth project and expensed incidentals such as $14.95 drink tabs over and above his $2,750 daily rate and his $75 per diem expense rate).  Mr Horner said he was not concerned because exorbitant expenses weren’t allowed under the government’s policy.****The AHS discussed its current policies, practices and expectations with Mr Merali and didn’t think he would do it again.***** 

In the Twilight Zone, clear evidence of a serious lack of judgment and an overblown sense of entitlement is not sufficient reason to disqualify a candidate from the highest position in a government department or agency overseeing the expenditure of billions of dollars because the candidate has been talked to and he won’t do it again.

Not to worry;  the government and AHS are taking action.  Premier Redford is “shocked and disappointed”****Mr Horne is “outraged” and is going to have “very very serious” discussions with the AHS board about its expense claims policy and how Mr Merali landed the CFO job in the first place***The AHS will post all future approved expenses (but not the whack of expenses that have been paid out since 2009) of the CEO and his direct reports on its webpage.  And the Auditor General will review AHS policies and practices and suggest improvements.  Apparently the idea of a forensic audit never crossed anyone’s mind!

Will this flurry of activity have any effect?  Judge for yourself.  Mr Horner says the Merali Affair “is a fairly isolated incident in terms of the Capital Health situation.”*** 

Poor Mr Horner has been in the Twilight Zone so long he can’t even begin to understand what’s wrong with that statement.  Without a forensic audit Mr Horner has no way of knowing whether the Merali Affair is an “isolated incident”.  Without a forensic audit the Auditory General can’t possibly understand the depth and scope of the potential misuse of expense account guidelines; and without a forensic audit, the government, the AHS and the public will never be able to identify any other “Mr Meralis” and eject them in order to protect taxpayers’ dollars that should be spent on healthcare services instead of replacing the glass in a senior executive’s Mercedes.

Unfortunately, that’s not how things are done in the Twilight Zone.  Cue the eerie music…

*Calgary Herald, Aug 2, 2012, p A1   

**National Post, Aug 3, 2012, p A5 

***Calgary Herald, Aug 3, 2012, p A4 and A1

****Calgary Herald, Aug 4, 2012, p A5 and A6 

*****Huffington Post Online, Aug 5, 2012 



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32 Responses to Alluadin Merali: Your guide to the Twilight Zone

  1. Jill Browne says:

    Thanks for this, Susan.

    Among other things, this incident shows a complete absence of clarity about what the role of the public servant is and how that differs from the private sector.

    I heard Premier Redford interviewed on CBC radio about this matter. She sounded genuinely outraged, and I believe she is. When you open the door to find skeletons like this one lurking, it can only make you wonder what else is going to surface.

    Fortunately, we have an Auditor General who routinely writes reports about what’s in the closets.

    • A friend of mine said that this sort of behavior has being going on at AHS for years and that when Premier Redford was elected the people hoped that things would change. I have not see the winds of change yet (the public inquiry became a HQCA inquiry, the Ministers who received payment for non-existent committee work have yet to pay it back), however this is Ms Redford’s opportunity to show Albertans that when she said she represented the new PC party she meant it. That means she has to do more than be “outraged”. She needs to call for a forensic audit. Once we have the results she can decide how far up the ladder she needs to go to rid the government and its agencies of self indulgent bureaucrats who’ve forgotten why they get paid $400,000/year.

  2. Rose Marie MacKenzie-Kirkwood says:

    Well, all the hairs on the back of my neck stood up just at the mention of “two butlers at the cost of $30.00 an hour”. How do you possibly explain that as an “approved expense”? If you have lived long enough you grew up with the adage “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”, looks like there are somethings that never change.

    Whatever happened to equality, where we all follow the same rules. In BC you can claim your bus tickets, on your income tax, as part of BC’s plan to save the environment BUT make sure you keep not only the payment receipt but the actual monthly bus pass in case you are audited. The grand total of this year expenditure is about $1000.00, so for this little yearly amount you have to save 24 receipts. I simply no longer understand the accountability in government.

    I did, although, find out this week why my doctor and physio therapists were so diligent in ensuring that I knew all the possible ways to main good health in my joints (I have both rheumatoid and osteo arthritis). Apparently under BC’s health plan you are only allowed one replacement joint per limb, per lifetime and as they only last about 15 years, getting diagnosed at the age of 35 became a problem. Breast cancer prosthesis used to also be 1 per life time because women never used to survive breast cancer. Go figure, seems we are out living the stats and causing a financial crisis for the government. The answer is to re-assess where the money goes because I plan on being here for a long long while. No more butlers, please.

  3. Rose, you’ve highlighted what was so shameful about the Merali Affair–the fact that funds that should have gone into improving the health of Albertans went into improving Mr Merali’s Mercedes and no one batted an eyelash.
    On a different note I was interested in your comment about your doctor and physiotherapists working with you to ensure you stay in good health for as long as possible because you only get one shot at a replacement joint. I have a friend who has a torn ligament in her shoulder. Apparently she’s been told that although the injury is a prime example of something that should be repaired, her doctor says it’s pointless to refer her to a surgeon because she’s too old. The woman is our age and let me tell you, we’re not old.
    When I hear that bureaucrats are funding their lavish lifestyles on the backs of the taxpayer while the gov’t is rationing healthcare because it can’t afford to care for its people, we should all ask the government: HOW did this happen and WHAT are you going to do about it?

  4. (You have a small typo on your second para — it should be Capital Health Region, not Calgary Health Region.)

    Without in any way disputing any of your discussion (because I don’t), I’d like to add another stream. As you note, Merali ran up substantial bills in Ontario as a consultant who ended up as part of the eHealth scandal (following his departure from Capital Health Region with a $1 million severance and pension of more than $13,000 a month which you have kindly not mentioned).

    This latest debacle here, coupled with eHealth and Ornge in Ontario, not to mention other Alberta problems previously chronicled here, suggest to me that senior health administrators have a belief in entitlement that puts them beyond the bounds of their alleged political masters. Certainly the “businesses” that they run are much larger than any that those “masters” have run before taking office — and it would appear that those who are inclined to abuse their public trust have little difficulty in pulling off the abuse. I don’t think the failure is necessarily a politcal one (in my two examples, we have both a Conservative and Liberal government) but I do think it is a competency one — elected ministers not only don’t have the personal experience to keep track, they don’t even seem to have the experience to recruit competent help at either the executive or board level. I think I could say with some certainty that the audit committee of the board of any major corporation would have dealt with Merali’s expense practices in short order.

    And for the life of me, I can’t understand how any competent executive recruiting agency would have brought Merali forward for not just one, but two senior posts. That is another dimension in the Twilight Zone that you have developed very well in this post which may yet need to be explored.

    • Kevin, I can’t speak to the Ontario examples (both of which appear to be phenomenal messes in their own right) but I wonder whether the failure is a combination of both of the factors you’ve pointed out—a political failure by a party who’s been in power too long and a competency failure by its appointees (eg. Sheila Weatherill) who show up like a bad penny whenever a plum job arises.
      My difficulty with Fred Horne is that he’s well educated (MBA). He’s worked in health policy for over 25 years and has held executive and ministerial positions with the Alberta government since 2004. I don’t think he’s in over his head. Furthermore Mr Horne has been directly involved in the healthcare portfolio since 2008. So it’s hard for me to believe that he was unaware of the sense of entitlement overtaking the AHS and its predecessors. But leaving all that aside when the Merali Affair broke Mr Horne had an opportunity to step up, accept responsibility and say this will never happen again under my watch. He could have insisted on a forensic audit to assure himself and the public that the entitlement culture had not taken hold at the AHS, and if it had, eradicated it. Instead he said he was concerned, indeed outraged, and his solution was to ask the Auditor General for suggestions for improvement. This is an insipid response to a major breach of public trust.
      (Thanks for pointing out the typo, I’ve fixed it)

      • I certainly agree that Horne should have stepped forward and taken full accountability for the issue (I don’t think it would be fair to expect him to take responsibility for events that took place before he was a minister, but he still is accountable for the decision). And I would accept the implication that he was involved in the decision that Merali had to go — so he should be taking responsibility for that.

        It does illustrate the point I was trying to make in my comment, however. The AHS board is not a “real” board but rather a group caught in the middle between professional executives and a political minister. The problem with this muddled accountability is that it does create a Twilight Zone (I like your metaphor) where, when trouble happens, everybody seems to dive for cover. And, as you point out, when an independent authority like the Auditor-General points out some obvious failings, all involved look to someone else to bell the cat. And you are right that ultimately the minister is at the top of the heap.

        I still think there is a structural (not political) issue that will continue to crop up, regardless of what party is in power or how long it has been there. Healthcare in Canada has become such a big “business” that those who are supervising it simply do not have the “business” experience to do the job adequately. The reason that I raised the Ontario example is that I think we are seeing some very expensive examples of the results — and let’s face it, the Alberta problems are roudning errors compared to the billion dollar failings of Ontario’s government.

      • jillbrowne says:

        Let’s take your comment a step farther, Kevin. Is it time to return public service functions to the government and stop using the quasi-corporate structure? Let’s instead put support and resources into cultivating a truly professional public service. I believe there are good people working for the government but I don’t see an ethos of public service being talked about, let alone respected.

      • Jill: I am inclined to agree with you — in the current environment, “boards” are inserted into the process almost as a dumping ground for problems, rather than as a positive contributor to the process. The minister can always overrule them, but they are always there to be assigned the blame. It is little wonder that a competent “board” cannot be recruited — they don’t have real power since they can always be overruled.

        Rather than having a shock-absorbing body in the process, a better system would seem to be one where the minister accepted Chair of the Board responsibility, with the Auditor-General’s office serving as his source of fiscal prudence (since it seems that function has been performed quite well). At the moment, the confused lines of authority mean that no one has that fiscal accountability. As I tried to point out, this is not just an Alberta problem (see the Ontario disasters) but a structural one.

  5. Carlos Beca says:

    Jill I have to disagree with you about our premier. She only sounded outraged because it was someone else expenses and not hers. The trip to London to me is bad enough and puts her in a situation where she does not have any moral standing whatsoever. These people are all of the same group and I very much believe that the whole belief of public service and government is just so distorted and cannot be corrected by the people that created it in the first place. The auditor has warned over and over but politicians just ignore it as if the public purse is their own.

    I also disagree with Kevin that this is not a political problem. It is definitely a competency problem but also a political one and for exactly the reason you mention that it does not matter what party is in power. That is the political problem. Politics and Democracy are in profound crisis and this is a consequence of it. As far as private corporations, they do not deal with issues like this very often because they are already being paid in the millions anyway, so the robbery is legal. Many bank CEOs make every week what Meralli abused in 3 years so I would not be so sure about private corporations either.

    Mr. Horne is not dumbfounded at all, he is playing dumb and he thinks we are just a bunch of idiots. After all who would not think that way after 41 years of taking us to the cleaners without any consequences.

    The sad part is that Albertans will do nothing about this one more time. In the meantime cuts are coming and again they will lower taxes to corporations and probably lower the royalties to increase development, orders of their corporate bosses.

    We are indeed a bunch of idiots for allowing this to go on. This is a problem that can be fixed and maybe the issue here is that many Albertans think this is alright after all we have now for a long time been told that greed is fine, actually greed is good.

    • jillbrowne says:

      Hi Carlos, I guess we have different impressions of the Premier’s sincerity, however neither of us should really judge according to her tone of voice, but by her actions. So, let’s see if this incident becomes isolated and forgotten, or if it becomes a springboard for things like paying attention to the Auditor General.

    • I agree that this is a “political” problem and that my original post should have said that it is not a “partisan” political problem — my bad. It is truly a “political” problem that does need to be addressed. Certainly, the current system illustrates that it is difficult to attract business-savvy masters into the political realm — and that is a serious political failure.

      The comments on this excellent post help to illustrate why we face this dilemma.

      Way back in 1975, I had the privilege as a journalist of covering Premier Lougheed’s Alberta mission to Europe — more than 100 Albertans travelled to several countries in Europe to tell the province’s story. It was expensive but was also one of the best investments that this province has ever made. In an era when Alberta was trying to inject itself into the global scene, there was nary a whining protest saying that Lougheed was interested only in cheating on expenses. Perhaps it is an indication of the success of Lougheed’s mission that that now seems to be the constant song of opposition complaints.

      In the decades since, Alberta has developed a generation of corporate leaders who are comfortable and more than competent on the global stage. For some time, we slid backwards in the political field — I don’t think I would have wanted either Klein or Stelmach to present our case.

      We finally have a premier who is capable of presenting the province there, but what do we see from some Albertans? Small-minded responses that says she should stay home and a fixation on her expenses. Danielle Smith (whose only real job was being an editorial writer at a near-tabloid newspaper) whining about something that she knows nothing about. Other complaints from the “mind the pennies, not the pound” group. Albertans who want our province to be smaller, not bigger.

      Alberta’s world-class corporate leaders have done a great job of presenting our province on the global stage. Premier Redford is filling the political gap that Klein and Stelmach could not (and Danielle Smith and Sherman would be even worse) — those who protest a minimum expense investment in having her attend the Bildrberg meetings or London Olympics where she can connect with sources vital to Alberta’s financial future are dead wrong. We finally have a premier who is capable of taking the global stage — if small-minded Albertans don’t want their premier to be there, it is little wonder that fully competent politicians cannot be attracted to public service and we are reduced to the woeful alternatives that are currently sitting on the Opposition benches.

      So yes, this is a political problem. Outstanding people have lots of options in where to exercise their talents — it is little wonder that so few are willing to consider elective office when they are subjected to this kind of petty personal criticism.

  6. Carlos, I didn’t hear the CBC interview in which Ms Redford expressed her outrage so I can’t comment on her sincerity, but I take your point that the Merali Affair has seriously shaken public confidence and that Ms Redford must take meaningful steps to determine whether the abuse of expense accounts is a wide spread problem, and if so fire those who’ve been abusing the system since the inception of the AHS in 2008. Huffing and puffing in the media simply doesn’t cut it.

    I also agree that this is not just a competency problem but a political one. The concern many of us had in the run up to this election was that the PCs had been in power so long that they no longer recognize when they’ve crossed the line. The Merali Affair is a classic example of how this plays out in real life, first when Mr Merali filed his outrageous expense claims and Ms Weatherill approved them, and later when two government departments offered Mr Merali the highest financial position available in their departments, notwithstanding the Auditor General’s criticism of Mr Merali’s inappropriate accounting practices. If we’re to believe that Ms Redford’s PCs truly are different she’ll have to step up to the plate and conduct a serious investigation into the culture of entitlement and then fix it.

    • It should be underlined that the abuses took place before 2008 — in no way can Premier Redford be held responsible for that. If the worst thing about our premier is that mistakes occured before she took office, Alberta is in great shape.

  7. jillbrowne says:

    No severance will be paid. A forensic audit will be done, it was announced today. The independent firm contracted to do this will be asked to recommend additional investigations as needed.

    This is what I gathered from CBC radio interview with Minister Horne this morning. I hope they will be supervised by the Auditor General. Minister said the independent firm will report directly to him. I assume he will take advantage of the expertise within the civil service. I’ve no reason to think any independent firm will take this as a blank cheque opportunity, but unfortunately there is that danger with any contract, particularly where there’s a mandate to look for ways to expand the work. To get this review off to a nice clean start it would be good to see a transparent procurement process for the audit.

    For the record I am aware of the expertise of some of the leading forensic auditors in the province and I consider them to be ethical practitioners. I’m not casting aspersions. I merely think the government could up its game here by making the whole process squeaky clean and open to public scrutiny.

  8. jillbrowne says:

    Looks like the announcement came out yesterday, a holiday. I only heard it today.

    That same item says:
    The results will be made public and referred to Alberta’s Auditor General and Alberta Health, said the release.

    I take this as a positive sign. Like I said, a chance for the government to up its game. Credit to them there.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      This is definitely official but I doubt they will get away with it especially when Mr. Horne already said publicly that Mr. Meralli did not do anything wrong. The lawyers will be on them like vampires and I can bet already that they will win this one and Meralli will again get his money and smile all the way to the bank. More often than not this is the end of all these scandals.
      I will reply to the other comments later but I just wanted to reply to Jill on this one.

  9. I’d like to pick up the original thread—what’s the appropriate response to the Merali situation? Health Minister Horne has authorized a forensic audit of Mr Merali’s expenses and while I’m sure that it will be carried out objectively, it’s just window dressing.
    The real issue is this: the Merali Affair surfaced two nasty characteristics of this government (which are likely common to any government that’s been in power for too long). The first is the culture of entitlement that allowed Merali to claim exorbitant expenses and Weatherill to approve them. The second is the culture of cronyism that resulted in Mr Merali being offered two positions in the government—notwithstanding the Auditor General’s report that Mr Merali deliberately overstated the liabilities of Capital Health so that it would get a bigger slice of the budget pie the following year and did so for 3 years notwithstanding warnings from the AG to stop.
    It’s easy to address the culture of entitlement. Order a forensic audit of all of the AHS executives (there are about 85 or so), not just Mr Merali, going back to the day the AHS was created. This will demonstrate one of two things: either the culture of entitlement is truly gone or there are still some bad apples at the AHS and they should be fired.
    It’s not as easy to address cronyism, but a good place to start would be to insist that the government and its agencies use the same objective hiring practices as the rest of us. It is commonplace in the private sector to insist on academic checks and reference checks for ALL positions, including the CEO. It would have been very easy to check Mr Merali’s employment record with the AB government (he worked in the AG’s office for 16 years before he joined Calgary Health) and with Ontario’s eHealth program. If nothing else Mr Merali would have listed these jobs on his resume.
    If Minister Horne can’t bring himself to go this far then he should not be entrusted with the health portfolio, a portfolio responsible for the most vulnerable people in Alberta.

  10. Carlos Beca says:

    Jill we indeed have a very different perception of our premier, but mine are certainly not based on her tone of voice. It is based on her actions that in my opinion have been, to say the least all over the place but never where she promises they will be. She is the biggest flip flopper I have known today in politics. Furthermore she always reacts to any event with very good intentions and then she melts into a final decision that really never brings closure to anything. She does not come across as a person with strong and steady commitments.

    Kevin I am glad you agree that this is also a political problem. To me this is actually a serious one. I strongly believe that one of the great problems we are facing as a nation is a very weak management class. Even at the private level I think the problems are very real. A lot of people become managers to make more money but not necessarily to manage or to care for it.

    I am one of those Canadians you call small minded and that ‘minds the pennies and not the pound’. Although I believe that there are situations when the premier should go abroad, I think that what is happening now is just another abuse of the public purse and the results are in my opinion irrelevant. We just created this belief that now to be a politician is to live on the road in the best of hotels and everything first class in the name of security. In most cases it is to escape the real problems we Albertans face. Let me put it this way – what does it take to solve the Emergency rooms in our Hospitals? The situation has been getting worse for years and one after the other the premiers use spin to sound that they care. The fact is that they know that if they go to an emergency room they will always have the best service so why bother. No one can even envision Alison Redford or any member of her family to wait 9 hours to see a doctor in an emergency room right? We could go on with this but there is not much point because by reading your post I know that we disagree in many aspects of our political and social life in the province. I respect your views but I do not agree with them.

  11. Jill Browne says:

    Hi Carlos, I am new to the activity of really paying attention to politics and politicians. I don’t have the personal repertoire of observations and opinions that come with spending time and making a sustained effort to watch over a long time period. For me, this will be one of the first issues where I will watch carefully and judge for myself. You sound like you have done the work and built your own knowledge base, like you have the history to fill in the gaps, but I truly have to wait and see for myself.
    I hope we can all continue to compare notes.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Hi Jill, my opinion about Alison Redford is just that – my opinion. What I know about politics is also based on what I observe and read because I do enjoy it.
      We will absolutely continue comparing notes, that is why I am here. I enjoy discussion and others views on what is going on. Many times I do not sound very positive but that is because I really do not see our political and social systems doing well at all.

  12. Ted Woynillowicz says:

    It continues to be a concern that the lack of transparency will continue to undermine accountability. The AHS is responsible to the Minister of Health rather than to the people of Alberta through the legislative assembly. Lines of communication have been drastically curtailed leaving more power in fewer hands, namely the minister of health who chooses to disclose what he wishes. This kind of managed or manipulated democracy seems to be taking hold increasingly in western democracies where a widening gap between governments and the people they apparently are elected to serve is becoming more commonplace. This departure from the traditional democracy that we have been accustomed to is being eroded incrementally and replaced by something that Princeton University professor of political philosophy, Sheldon Wolin, calls “inverted totalitarianism”. It may be useful to explore this term and apply the definition to our provincial and federal leaders to determine whether Wolin’s theory has legitimacy. Going back to the AHS and the topic at hand, it may be that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps a full out public audit of AHS may be required in order that Albertans have confidence in important public services such as health care that are supported by their hard earned tax dollars.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Hi Ted – I totally agree with you and I did read Sheldon Wolin’s book Democracy Inc. and I do very much agree with him as well. This is my main concern, this obvious erosion of Democracy and our connection to government that more and more is this THEY that is so prevalent today.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Gosh I clicked the button too fast 🙂

      I believe that the full public audit you suggest is not only necessary but fundamental. I also think that a total audit on the system as a whole is absolutely needed unless we are prepared to face social and political instability in the near future. Money is becoming scarcer and scarcer and it is not going to get any better. Once financial stability is not there, social instability is next and a good strong democratic process and trust in government is necessary to avoid social collapse.
      We seem to be moving towards a financial and democratic instability at the same time and that could be big trouble.
      I was hoping that the Alberta Party was going to tackle this democratic deficit and so make a difference in the political landscape, but they chose not too and the rest is history. They are now one more in the center and vanishing.

    • Ted, I agree. Mr Horne has proposed half measures which will not restore public confidence. Posting AHS executives’ expenses from this point forward doesn’t show us what these executives expensed in the past. Asking the Auditor General to review the expense policy and suggest improvements is nice but not binding on the AHS. The only reason the public is aware of Mr Merali’s liberal interpretation of the expense policy then in place at Capital Health is because the CBC FOIPed the records and was about to expose Mr Merali in the media. A public forensic audit will either expose other “bad apples” and get them out the door or demonstrate there are no more Mr Meralis lurking about. Either way the government wins–so why won’t they do it?

  13. Carlos Beca says:

    Hi Susan – the reason they do not do it is because most of them have their hands in the cookie jar. That is the reason, of this I have no doubts. The problem here is how far deep in the jar they went. This reminds me of a joke I saw a while back where a 100 pound overweight person was saying to another person 200 pounds overweight. ‘WOW my friend you are fat, you have to get serious about your weight’ !!

  14. Thanks for the chuckle Carlos. I’m afraid we’ll need it. The backtracking has starting already. The Aug 9 Herald carried the story announcing that Don Scott, associate minister responsible for accountability, transparency and transformation would lead an initiative to identify stricter reporting requirements for spending and hire an outside HR firm to evaluate hiring practices and executive contracts. The Herald was quoting verbatim from the Gov’t press release because Mr Scott “was not available for an interview” and his department spokesman said the minister’s statement contained all available information. It’s not a very auspicious start when the minister responsible for accountability, transparency and transformation won’t meet with the press!

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Yes the bactracking has already started and I am sure the great spin gurus are on the case to make sure they manage what they always do very well – get the case to be forgotten one more time. Maybe something will come up in the Olimpics closing ceremony and a scandal will replace another and we will never know whether or not Mr. Meralli gets his severance, or by the time we get to know, most people will not even remember what the real issue was. Nothing will be done until we get Meralli II sometime in the future. This is our sad reality. If someone takes it seriously and does something about it, everything possible is done to discredit him\her and new titles are created to impress the public. Left Wing Nuts, eco-terrorists, lefties, socialists…..etc. Usually something related to the left because they know Albertans are affraid of these words. It is quite a process. I still remember when the then Mayor Jan Reimer started what is today one of the most sophisticated garbage management systems in the world, the Sun newspaper had a couple of jornalists that referred to her as the BAG LADY.

  15. crljones says:

    I remember watching the Twilight Zone with Rod Sterling – not sure what episode, the music was scary enough – but this Merali Affair is WAY SCARIER!

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