MPs demand ten-year audit into ArriveCan contractors

A Parliamentary committee has ordered a ten-year audit into all ArriveCan contractors to investigate 'irregularities' with the faulty pandemic app. Auditor General Karen Hogan estimates ArriveCan cost taxpayers $59.5 million, with GC Strategies pocketing $19.1 million.

MPs demand ten-year audit into ArriveCan contractors
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A Parliamentary committee has ordered a ten-year audit into all ArriveCan contractors to further investigate ‘irregularities’ with the faulty pandemic app.

“If there is something crooked — if, because we are not a court of law — but if something is not right, we have to identify it,” said Bloc Québécois MP Julie Vignola.

The government operations committee adopted a Conservative motion Friday to request an Auditor General audit into GC Strategies and all other ArriveCan contractors, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

Auditor General Karen Hogan estimated the pandemic tool cost taxpayers $59.5 million, with GC Strategies receiving the lion's share at $19.1 million.

On February 12, Hogan released a scorching report that blasted several government agencies for not following “good management practices in the contracting, development, and implementation of the ArriveCAN application.” 

She criticized the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Public Health Agency of Canada), and Public Services and Procurement Canada. The former granted GC Strategies nearly half of the 140 contracts totaling $258 million, reported La Presse.

Among the contracts include 46 that involved a non-competitive application process — including a $2.35 million ArriveCan contract in April 2020. “This gave [them] an advantage that other potential bidders did not have," said Hogan. 

"We will force parliamentary investigations. We will also send this information to the RCMP," Tory leader Pierre Poilievre told the publication.

Public Services and Procurement Canada has since paused all contracts with GC Strategies, at the request of the CBSA.

“The RCMP have it within their purview to figure out if there is criminal activity at play,” claimed Liberal MP Charles Sousa. “Some are presupposing these are criminals. That hasn’t been decided,” he added. 

“The investigation has not been completed and we need that investigation as taxpayers, as officials in government.”

Tory Leader Pierre Poilievre told La Presse earlier that his caucus would look into the contracts at the public accounts committee and the government operations and budget forecasts committee.

“We must have the truth. The scandal is bigger than before,” said Poilievre. "These are incredible revelations.”

“If there is a scandal related to ArriveCan's $20 million, how many other scandals are related to this company without us knowing it?”

According to public records, GC Strategies, an IT firm with nine federal projects under their belt, received 55 federal contracts totaling $33.4 million from 2017 to 2023. 

However, a company partner testified in 2022 that total contracts over just two years could exceed $44 million, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

“GC Strategies invoiced over $44 million over the past two years for all of our federal work over 20 departments,” testified Kristian Firth, one of two employees of GC Strategies. 

The firm subcontracted their 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.

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

“We are an IT staffing firm. We are not involved,” said Firth. “We have no direction on the projects or the objectives,” she added.

“You are the broker or the middleman between the government and the service provider, is that correct?” asked Conservative MP Michael Barrett. “Essentially yes,” replied Firth.

According to filings provided to the committee, GC Strategies boasted it had friends who “rubbed shoulders with every deputy minister in town.” One of its partners admitted during phone calls to having ‘dirt’ on senior government officials, according to a whistleblower testimony last October 26.

“It should be evident to everyone in this room as well as Canadians there is systemic corruption within this government,” MP Kusie earlier told the committee.

“It's beyond reason that a two-person company operating out of a suburban basement could be doing $258 million in business with the federal government,” added Barrett. 

GC Strategies has since declined to attend committee questioning, but MPs have threatened to compel committee testimony by issuing subpoenas, which are enforceable by arrest and carry with them the weight of the courts. 

Parliament launched ArriveCan in April 2020 for travellers to upload health information, such as vaccination status, at border crossings. It served as a mandatory prerequisite for travel until October 2022.

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