ArriveCan audit expands to include RCMP probe into ‘improper contracting’

Karen Hogan, the Auditor General, will re-interview government officials over allegations of ‘cozy relationships’ between the public service and the firms who worked on the ArriveCAN app.

ArriveCan audit expands to include RCMP probe into ‘improper contracting’
The Canadian Press / Giordano Ciampini and Justin Tang
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ArriveCAN, a costly pandemic tool, has received an expanded audit by the federal Auditor General to include recently unveiled allegations of improper contracting.

As reported extensively by The Globe and Mail, Botler co-founders Ritika Dutt and Amir Morv learned that GCStrategies, Dalian Enterprises and Coradix collected extensive commissions, used personal information without consent and exaggerated their work experience.

Botler, which worked on a pilot project for detecting sexual harassment, said the funding came from a larger $21.2 million contract for “general services” that CBSA also used to outsourcing work for the ArriveCan app.

In October 2022, GCStrategies received more than $9 million to work on the ArriveCan app — later updated to $11.2 million — while Coradix and Dalian received a combined $4.3 million that is now the subject of an RCMP investigation.

Kristian Firth, managing partner of GCStrategies, told a Parliamentary committee last year that he and his business partner, Darren Anthony hired subcontractors to work on the app.

GCStrategies ultimately collected between 15% and 30% of contract values without performing any IT work.

Karen Hogan, the Auditor General, will now re-interview government officials over allegations of “cozy relationships” between these firms and the public service.

Over the past decade, Coradix and Dalian received a combined $362 million as a joint venture. Since 2017, GCStrategies received $46 million in taxpayer-funded contracts with the federal government.

Hogan launched her ArriveCan audit earlier this year after the Commons last November 2 voted 173 to 149 to audit the app.

The audit into ArriveCAN — which cost $54 million to develop — will now receive an extension from December to early 2024 to submit findings to Parliament.

According to Blacklock’s Reporter, she initially learned of the allegations through The Globe report on October 4 rather than from federal officials, claiming they should have told her team.

“Through the course of our audit, we always ask questions linked to actual, suspected or alleged fraud. And we would expect that there’s an ongoing responsibility for officials to keep us informed of any matters that are relevant to the subject that we are auditing,” said Hogan.

“I am disappointed that they did not tell us,” she added.

During an emergency Public Accounts Committee session Thursday, Conservative MP Larry Brock expressed his disgust with the feds keeping the Auditor General in the dark on the police investigation.

“Are you saying that your office, you in particular, found out that the RCMP is investigating the contracts under the $54 million ArriveCan app not by the government of Canada itself, but from reading the Globe and Mail story?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “Management had not informed me that they referred a contracting matter which involved many common players that we are looking at, to the RCMP.”

According to Brock, the allegations involve “identity theft, fraudulent forged resumes, contractual theft, fraudulent billing, price fixing, collusion, all with senior bureaucrats with the Government of Canada.”

“They have been charged with a very serious responsibility and one would think […] the government would exercise some transparency and accountability to notify you about this investigation,” he added.

“They failed. They failed you, failed Canadians.”

Hogan informed Brock that her office has been in constant communication with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) since she learned of the RCMP investigation.

“We have been engaged with the OAG on the ArriveCan performance audit, and will continue to do so. We await the OAG findings and will act on them,” said Guillaume Bérubé, a CBSA spokesperson, in a written statement

“Can you identify who the new people are that you’re interviewing?” asked MP Brock. Hogan replied: “I am still in conversation with the Canada Border Services Agency about that.”

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