ArriveScam darling angers MPs by saying he can't recall millions in federal contracts

'You cannot tell us whether you earned more than $4 million from federal contracts?' asked Conservative MP Luc Berthold. 'No,' replied Darren Anthony, vice president of GC Strategies. 'I don’t have those numbers in front of me.'

ArriveScam darling angers MPs by saying he can't recall millions in federal contracts
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MPs on the government operations committee are fuming after an ArriveCan supplier failed to recall how many millions he made from federal contracts.

Darren Anthony, vice president of GC Strategies, received a subpoena last month to testify before MPs at parliamentary committee hearings.

Yet, under committee questioning 44 separate times, Anthony replied “I don’t know,” “I am not aware,” “I am not sure,” “I have no idea,” “I don’t have those numbers” and “I have no knowledge of that.”

“I have always been willing to answer questions,” he claimed.

“You cannot tell us whether you earned more than $4 million from federal contracts?” asked Conservative MP Luc Berthold. “No,” replied Anthony. “I don’t have those numbers in front of me.”

“Six million?” asked Berthold. “I don’t have those numbers in front of me,” replied Anthony.

“More than $7 million, Mr. Anthony?” continued Berthold. “I don’t have those numbers in front of me,” he replied again.

“More than $8 million, Mr. Anthony?”

“I don’t have any numbers in front of me.”

Anthony’s partner earlier this week testified before the committee, saying the ArriveCan application made them millionaires, courtesy of lucrative federal contracts. 

“What was the total amount of money you and your partner took home from this project?” asked Conservative MP Garnett Genuis. “It is approximately $2.5 million,” replied Kristian Firth.

“You and your partner became millionaires through this project?” asked Genuis. “$2.5 million over two years is $1.25 million divided by two people,” replied Firth.

In a briefing note by the Department of Public Works, the federal government considered these charges “fair and reasonable” despite multi-million-dollar cost overruns. 

The estimated cost of the pandemic tool is approximately $59.5 million, with GC Strategies receiving the lion's share at $19.1 million.

Conservative MP Larry Brock calculated Anthony and his associates pocketed “upwards of $17.7 million” in commissions on federal contracts. GC Strategies outsourced their IT work to subcontractors, charging between a 15% and 30% commission rate. 

“No Canadian has any sympathy for you, sir, in the situation you’re in,” said Brock. “That amount of money is something akin to winning the taxpayer lottery.”

“The damage has already been done,” replied Anthony.

“We all find it rather odd that you don’t have knowledge or an understanding of these consequences,” said Liberal MP Charles Sousa, parliamentary secretary for public works. 

Treasury Board President Anita Anand, then-public works minister, earlier dodged accountability for the cost overruns despite her department overseeing 31 of 46 contracts approved for the ArriveCan application, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

“It did not cross my desk,” she told reporters on February 28.

“Did you know about any of this?” asked a reporter. “The issues rested with officials and did not come to me as Minister,” replied Anand.

On February 14, Anthony’s company received an indefinite suspension from federal procurement amid an ongoing police investigation into contract irregularities, including ineligibility, favoured terms and sole-sourced awards without paperwork. 

According to the Comptroller General, GC Strategies has pocketed $107.7 million in federal contracts, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

A census conducted by La Presse more than doubles that figure, claiming the firm pocketed 140 contracts, worth nearly $258 million from several federal departments and agencies. 

Public Services and Procurement Canada suspended all contracts with GC Strategies, at the request of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), who granted the firm nearly half their IT contracts.

Ritika Dutt and Amir Morv, founders of software company Botler, first informed the RCMP in September 2021 of alleged ‘cozy relationships’ between the public service and private firms on the project. 

Botler released a more detailed report the following November, suggesting federal managers maintained improper contract practices with GC Strategies. The federal policing agency launched an application investigation soon after.

The Auditor General and federal Procurement Ombudsman reinforced those concerns in separate reports earlier this year, citing numerous irregularities involving the ‘sweetheart contracts.’

“Have you read the Auditor General’s report?” asked New Democrat MP Taylor Bachrach. “I have not read it, no,” replied Anthony.

“The Auditor General of Canada has audited contracts the company you are a 50 percent owner of has undertaken and you haven’t read the report? Have you read the Procurement Ombudsman’s report?” asked Bachrach. “No, I have not,” replied Anthony.

Genuis laughed at Anthony’s testimony. “I don’t even know what to say,” he said. “This is so ridiculous. Is it not obviously ridiculous to you?”

“This report was tabled more than a month ago,” continued Genuis. “Your company has faced grievous consequences which you have described because of this report … feeding into an RCMP investigation that could result in criminal charges.”

“This report is merely 36 pages and at no point did you think, ‘Maybe I should read this thing’?” asked Genuis. “No I did not,” replied Anthony.

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