GC Strategies received three contracts from CBSA during ArriveScam boondoggle

According to a census conducted by La Presse, CBSA gave GC Strategies nearly half of its federal contracts since 2015, totalling tens of millions of dollars. The firm also developed three other applications simultaneously with the controversial ArriveCan application.

GC Strategies received three contracts from CBSA during ArriveScam boondoggle
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ArriveCan sweetheart GC Strategies pocketed a quarter of a billion dollars in federal contracts for no IT work, including several with CBSA since 2020.

According to a census conducted by La Presse, the firm received 140 contracts totaling nearly $258 million from several federal departments and agencies. Nearly half were contracted by the border agency.

Of the CBSA contracts, GC Strategies developed three other applications simultaneously with the ArriveCan application.

The applications are not widely used in contrast to the latter, which collected the vaccination status of travellers from April 2020 to October 2022. 

On the CBSA contracts, the firm cashed in $6.7 million to design an inspection system for courier shipments imported into Canada. The application is expected to be deployed nationally within a year.

They also pocketed $1.2 million to help border agents assess the risks of passengers and vehicles. 

For its third contract, GC Strategies received $442,000 to design JeMePresente, an application to confirm the identity and location of newcomers required to present themselves to CBSA to avoid detention. It remains in the works.

Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament Julie Vignola commented that knowledge of these contracts presents an urgent need to investigate the CBSA and its federal contracts.

“There has been an abandonment of what the civil service should be, that is, teams of experienced experts who are leaders in their specialty,” she said.

"It adds a layer to the questions we have for this company," added Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus. “It also calls into question the management of the CBSA and the government against GC Strategies.”

Similar to ArriveCan, the firm admitted to subcontracting the IT work for the above applications, cashing in a percentage of its total $8.3 million value, La Presse learned.

At committee October 20, 2022, the firm admitted to subcontracting ArriveCan IT work to several companies, charging between a 15% and 30% commission rate. The firm billed Ottawa for the project between $1,000 to $1,500 per worker daily.

Hogan estimated the pandemic tool cost taxpayers $59.5 million, with GC Strategies receiving the lion's share at $19.1 million. The initial cost of the application cost $80,000.

The average per diem cost for external resources nearly doubled ($675) that of equivalent IT positions in the public service, reported Global News.

The CBSA has since agreed to an audit of its recent contracts in light of the Auditor General's explosive report on the ArriveCan cost overruns due this summer.

Hogan referenced GC Strategies, condemning several government agencies for not following “good management practices in the contracting, development, and implementation of the ArriveCan application.” She criticized CBSA, Public Health Agency of Canada), and Public Services and Procurement Canada.

"We are working hard to fill the gaps in our procurement documentation, processes and controls," said CBSA President Erin O'Gorman in an emailed statement.

The agency pledged to "reduce its dependence" on IT subcontractors, having reduced the number of IT consultants by roughly 25% since June 2023. It plans to lower it again by another 25% "in the next year."

The last payments made on the three applications came in June 2023, according to the CBSA. They did not clarify if the projects had cost overruns.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Public Services and Procurement (SPAC) clarified that "Canada does not have a contractual relationship with subcontractors," and chose not to disclose their identities for confidentiality reasons.

"The main contractor is responsible for the performance and contractual obligations of subcontractors," the spokesperson told La Presse

The Department of Public Services and Procurement has since suspended all contracts with GC Strategies until further notice.

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