Arrivescam contractor claims he 'did not bribe' public servants for lucrative contracts

'I would go out and I would invite government employees to lunch, to coffee,' Arrivescam supplier Kristian Firth told the House of Commons. Opposition MPs condemned the contractor for the contradicting himself in his testimony.

Arrivescam contractor claims he 'did not bribe' public servants for lucrative contracts
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IT supplier Kristian Firth met federal managers for drinks over lucrative government contracts, adding fuel to the fire.

As the first federal contractor in 111 years to be cited for contempt of Parliament, Firth told MPs his company GC Strategies “could have been stopped” at any time as it billed $19.1 million for the pandemic tool.

“We did as we were told,” he said. Firth’s disclosures followed his summons to the House of Commons, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

Auditors to date have identified numerous irregularities involving Firth’s contracts. On Tuesday, RCMP officers raided the contractor’s residence to obtain electronic devices on suspicion of fraudulent billing and resume fraud.

According to Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie, Firth wined and dined public servants for over a decade to table government contracts. “Officials became comfortable with the system,” she said. “Officials allowed Mr. Firth to charge millions because they weren’t willing to follow the rules.”

“We were picked,” said the Arrivescam supplier. “We didn’t solicit,” he clarified.

Among the disputed contracts, the Canada Border Services Agency awarded Firth’s company a $25.3 million contract on exclusive terms it helped write. 

On Wednesday, he named Diane Daly, then-manager of contracting for the Canada Border Services Agency, as his personal contact on the deal.

“Once the contract had been awarded through regular procurement practices,” he said, “they became a client, and we would have frequent meetings to check on the health of the project.”

“Who are you protecting in this corrupt system?” asked Kusie. “I am not protecting anybody,” replied Firth. “I am just going about my business like an IT staffing firm does.”

Firth met frequently with Paul Girard, former chief information officer at the Treasury Board, and Philippe Johnston, chief information officer at the National Research Council, at coffee shops and restaurants. 

Firth denied paying any bribes or kickbacks to federal managers, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. “We don’t give gifts and do bribes to win contracts,” he said.

Bloc Québécois MP Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné asked for the value of gifts given to public servants in exchange for lucrative contracts. “That number is zero,” replied Firth.

“Mr. Firth never paid for a coffee, restaurant meal, golf game, a whiskey tasting despite everything we heard at committee?” asked Sinclair-Desgagné. “I have admitted I would go out and I would invite government employees to lunch, to coffee,” replied Firth.

“This is a good example of a contradiction,” said the Bloc MP. “We went from saying the amount was zero to admitting that indeed there were dinners, golf games, whiskey tastings with dozens of federal public servants.”

“I’ll repeat my question,” said Sinclair-Desgagné. “What’s the number, whether in kind or in cash? What was the amount given to federal public servants?”

“The first question was specific to what was given to receive contracts by government employees,” replied Firth. “That’s why I said it was zero.” 

At committee October 20, 2022, GC Strategies said it subcontracted the IT work for ArriveCan to several companies, charging up to a 30% commission rate. 

The firm billed Ottawa for the project between $1,000 to $1,500 per worker daily. The average per diem cost for external resources nearly doubled ($675) that of equivalent IT positions in the public service.

“We invoice monthly,” clarified Firth. “We were paid to recruit and find resources who built the app,” he added. “This was not our app.”

Records show Firth’s company, a two-man operation working from his home in Woodlawn, Ontario, received 118 separate federal contracts, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. Payments totaled $107.7 million. 

According to a census conducted by La Presse, GC Strategies received 140 contracts since 2015, totaling nearly $258 million from several federal departments and agencies. 

“According to committee testimony Mr. Firth received $2,600 per hour spent working on Arrive-scam,” said Conservative MP Garnett Genuis. “That is substantially more than the earnings of an average NHL player,” he added.

“It is flattering to be a recognized person to provide requirements and help for the federal government,” Firth said. “Very flattering indeed,” replied Genuis.

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