Nova Scotia Journal

The CEO of N.S. hospital is focusing on fraud cases

N.S. Hospital CEO

A fraud case against a former Nova Scotia hospital manager began in Halifax on Monday.

Crown claims to have fraudulently used public funds for private flights to their home in Ontario and other unacceptable expenses. However, on opening day, lawyer Tracy Kitch accused her client of never falsifying her expenses and that the hospital’s chief executive had approved her allegations.

Tracy Kitch, former executive director of the IWK Health Center, is on trial in County Court for embezzlement and fraud of more than $5,000 due to an investigation into his spending.

A review by Grant Thornton, commissioned by the hospital in 2017, found that the children’s hospital was billed about $47,000 in “potentially private” fees. Tracy Kitch paid all expenses within months of his summer retirement. Se made an annual salary of $296,289 at the time of her departure.

In his opening speech, Peter Dostal, the case’s chief prosecutor, said he would open a point in the upcoming 2 to 3 weeks to show that public money was spent for private use which he believes will be enough to prove fraud. “We ask the court to assess whether the private use of money is fundamentally unfair from a reasonable person’s point of view,” Dostal said.

He also said the process would focus on about 68 expense transactions over three years, including flights between Toronto and Halifax, adding that Crown would produce evidence showing they were “obviously personal” and not business reasons. “Most of these costs are in the form of buying airline tickets, products which essentially pre-purchase flights,” said Dostal, adding that there were also a hotel, food, fees, and baggage costs including between August 2014 and June 2017.

Dostal notes that Kitch lived in Oakville, Ont, and traveled there frequently during her time at IWK.

He told Judge Paul Scovil that most alleged irregular purchases were made using Kitch company credit cards. Prosecutors said some of the transactions weren’t necessarily fraudulent but relevant because they were “likely” business expenses with “significant personal gain,” such as frequent trips to Toronto to work with communications advisors.

One of the witnesses at the prosecution was  Det. Christian Pluta, chief investigator of the Halifax Police Department. He testified that the investigation began when he and other officials reviewed the “unapproved expenses” described in the September 2017 Grant Thornton review.

Pluta said he interviewed hospital executives, public relations officers, and board members, as well as assistants from Kitch and the team that prepared the Grant Thornton review.

The detective said he spent a month investigating all the expenses, including 155 credit card transactions.

Some purchases, such as flights, are one purchase but include ten airline tickets, Pluta said. “They (the transactions) have been marked outside the IWK guidelines,” he said. However, attorney Jacqueline King asked Pluta a series of questions and pointed out to the police that there was no testimony of intentional fraud on the Kitsch.

He told the court that if Kitch had personal expenses on his company card, such as placing a relative in a hotel or transporting her son in a taxi, she would alert her assistant and use phrases such as “please follow her” would be used. To declare his intention to reclaim the money. In many of the documents given to you, do you see receipts that say, “She dined with this and that, but was it a fee for her and her husband?” by doing? what’s wrong? She asked the detective.

Source: CTV News

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