Alberta Government Expenses: Claims To Be Posted Online Every 2 Months, Redford Announces

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Travel, accommodation, meal and hospitality expenses for all cabinet ministers, members of the government caucus, senior officials appointed by order in council and paid directly by government, deputy ministers and executive managers in the Alberta Public Service will be posted online and be accessible to any member of the public starting Oct. 1. (CP) | CP

CALGARY - Premier Alison Redford says Alberta's new method of reporting travel and expense claims will make it easy for the public to keep an eye on her government.

Travel, accommodation, meal and hospitality expenses for all cabinet ministers, members of the government caucus, senior officials appointed by order in council and paid directly by government, deputy ministers and executive managers in the Alberta Public Service will be posted online and be accessible to any member of the public starting Oct. 1.

Redford says the change will allow Alberta to lead the country with respect to online disclosure of expenses.

"There are times that people feel policies are good enough and we're not a government that believes that good enough ... is good enough," Redford said at a late Wednesday afternoon news conference in Calgary.

"We talked about all of these issues, including political financing legislation that would ensure that we were better than we were before ... I think it will be transparent. I think it will be accountable."

The Progressive Conservative government ordered the review after two senior health executives quit over lavish claims worth $346,000.

Allaudin Merali resigned a month ago as chief financial officer of Alberta Health Services over his expense claims when he worked for the now defunct Capital Health Region.

The claims filed between 2005 and 2009 included expensive restaurant meals, maintenance for his Mercedes and international trips.

Sheila Weatherill, who was Merali's boss at the time and approved the expense claims, also stepped down last week from the board of Alberta Health Services.

Merali went to Ontario in 2009 after the Alberta government merged Capital Health and other regional boards into one superboard called Alberta Health Services.

While working in Ontario as a consultant, he billed the province for expenses of up to $76,000 per month.

Alberta Health Services then hired Merali as its chief financial officer.

"While we have seen some stories over the past couple of months with respect to challenges around expense policies, that is a reminder that the system worked," said Redford.

"The system worked, they were identified and we're dealing with the issue. So we can continue to do that but we can do it under a more rigorous policy."

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation praised Redford's decision, saying she was carrying through on a promise she made during the Tory leadership race.

"Ms. Reford committed ... that if she was elected leader and premier, she would follow the City of Toronto's lead and require all MLAs and cabinet to put their itemized expenses, including receipts, online," said director Scott Hennig. "She's gone even further today, and we couldn't be more pleased."

He said universities, school boards, health authorities and other organizations that spend taxpayers' money might want to follow suit, "otherwise they are going to start facing increased scrutiny on their expenses."

The premier said expenses will be posted every two months.

Alberta's privacy commissioner will be asked to review the policy in one year to ensure the government continues to employ best standards.

“Reporting more details, more frequently, is a good reminder that government members and executives are not only accountable to the people who sign off on their expense claims but also directly to the citizens of the province,” said Don Scott, associate minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation.

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