Allaudin Menali followed rules, which are what needs to change
By Bruce A Stewart
Does anyone remember Bev Oda, she of the £16.00 per glass orange juice and the limousine charges in the thousands?
How about David Dingwall, former civil servant, Liberal Cabinet Minister, and head of the Royal Canadian Mint? Remember his famous testimony when asked about excessive expenses and nickel-and-dimeing the taxpayer? “I’m entitled to my entitlements.”
Or Eleanor Clitheroe’s financially lucrative and treasury-breaking tenure as CEO of Ontario’s Hydro One, with her $2.2 million salary, paid club memberships and a monstrous expense account … plus a pension to die for?
Well, add Allaudin Menali, who has joined the “hi, I’m a public servant and I’m entitled to get every last dollar the taxpayers have as long as I file the right forms” club from his tenure at the Capital Health Region in Alberta, with eHealth Ontario, and now as the outgoing Chief Financial Officer of Alberta Health Services.
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There are two aspects that go into determining whether elements of a compensation package or expense reimbursement policy is appropriate.
One is the one used by Menali’s former boss at Capital Health, Sheila Weatherill, and the other board directors and chief executives he’s come across. “Have all the forms been filled in and signed in the appropriate manner? Are all the receipts present? Were these requests for reimbursements submitted in a timely manner?”
Doesn’t it do your heart good, as a taxpayer, to know that anything goes if all the bureaucratic niceties are attended to?
The other is the one that’s been missing in all of these cases — and in the case of Chris Mazza, the ousted CEO of Ontario’s ORNGE and many other public sector agencies in recent years.
A complete lack of common sense about the amounts involved, and the purposes for which the money is being spent.
Can you imagine for one minute what kind of reaction you’d get if you walked into your boss’ office and slapped an expense form down on the table for meals in the tens of thousands, for annual memberships in the best clubs, and then also demanded a few quarters to pay for a stick of gum or a loonie to the shoeshine boy as a tip?
Most organizations have per diem restrictions (you try eating healthily on a business trip to New York City where you’re allowed $55/day all in — a very typical number), rules about paying for alcohol, expectations that anything you’d buy as a luxury comes out of your own pocket, and the like.
There’s a matter of proportion here: if you’re paid big money with expensive perquisites, you don’t sweat the small stuff.
A better question to ask, though, is why the devil public sector agencies are writing compensation deals north of $500,000 per year in the first place (and yes, expenses and agreements to pay for clubs, etc. are a part of compensation — and expensed items are non-taxable part, to boot).
Allaudin Menali is a CFO. That’s a position that requires, typically, a CA designation. Beyond that, they’re a dime a dozen, especially since neither Capital Health nor Alberta Health Services is busy doing mergers and acquisitions, managing a public stock float, or the other high-end jobs of the CFO.
The CEOs and Boards involved let the taxpayer down. They overpaid for the position. Then they authorized expenditures — whether “appropriate to the bureaucratic process” or not — that are ridiculous in scale for the role being fulfilled.
CFOs of privately held ventures that are not raising funds for acquisitions — Menali’s situation — simply don’t need to entertain on this scale. But the people charged with the fiduciary duty to say “no” didn’t do their job.
Nor, of course, did the Ministers involved, whom, you may remember, are fully and completely responsible for the actions of every individual in every agency and branch under their domain.
This stinks to high heaven, and heads should roll right up to the Cabinet to clean house and put people who treat the public purse as a trust into place.
It doesn’t matter whether Allaudin Menali followed the rules. The rules themselves are what’s at fault.