ArriveCAN contractors could be forced to repay overbilled sums

The app cost Canadians approximately $60M after its budget was initially pegged at $80,000.

ArriveCAN contractors could be forced to repay overbilled sums
The Canadian Press / Giordano Ciampini
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According to the Globe and Mail, officials from Canada’s federal procurement department who are investigating issues related to ArriveCAN contracts told MPs Wednesday that contractors could be forced into repayment if they’ve overbilled.

Officials from Public Works and Government Services Canada also told MPs that they will attempt to decrease the use of sole-source contracting and more carefully probe what the government is receiving for contracts moving forward.

The ArriveCAN app was intended to be used as a tool in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 by forcing passengers to submit personal information — including their vaccine status — into the app before entering the country.

What was supposed to be a relatively inexpensive undertaking inexplicably ballooned into a $60M taxpayer-funded debacle with accusations of abuse of power and corruption.

Prime Minister Trudeau has admitted that contracting rules were not followed during the process but refused to take responsibility for the waste of funds.

As reported by CTV News, a recently-released report by the Auditor General found a "glaring disregard" for basic practices by those involved in contracting, developing, and implementing the ArriveCAN app.

Bookkeeping was so poor throughout the process according to the report that the total cost of the app can only be estimated.

At the centre of the scandal is an "IT staffing firm" with two employees called GC Strategies. The company reportedly received almost $20M to work on the app, but essentially just subcontracted the work out to other agencies.

According to an investigation by the Federal Procurement Ombudsman, 76% of contractors who were paid for ArriveCAN performed no actual work on the app. 

A statement from Kelly Block, Conservative Shadow Minister for Public Services and Procurement, reads in part, "Despite this fiasco surrounding GC Strategies, this two-person IT consulting firm has been awarded nearly $60 million in contracts from the Trudeau Government since 2017, even receiving contracts after they charged the Canadian taxpayer $11 million for the dysfunctional ArriveCan app. Eight years ago, Trudeau promised to cut consultant contracts. This is just one more broken Liberal promise that Canadians are on the hook for."

The RCMP have announced that they are reviewing the Auditor General's scathing report and will take "appropriate action."

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