ArriveCan $1.2 Million Contract was ‘Human Error’, Full Review Coming: CBSA

Last week, the Canada Border Services Agency submitted a breakdown of costs associated with developing and maintaining the ArriveCAN app to Parliament as part of its ongoing study into the government’s $54 million spending on the app.

The CBSA’s breakdown listed a cloud computing services company called ThinkOn as receiving $1,183,432 worth of contract work for ArriveCAN. However, there was a problem with that — the Etobicoke, Ontario-based company never worked on the app or received any money from the CBSA.

According to a report from The Globe and Mail, the CBSA has admitted this was the result of “human error.”

“When asked to report on all the contracts for ArriveCan, we included ThinkOn in error. We did not have a contract with ThinkOn Inc. and no payment has been made to the company,” a CBSA spokesperson told the publication on Friday.

The CBSA’s reference to ThinkOn included specific information, including a contract value of $1,183,432, a time duration of January 21, 2020, to March 31, 2022, as well as a definition of contract scope that said ThinkOn worked on “experimentation of mobile QR code scanning and verification.”

However, the CBSA said it simply put the wrong company’s name on the report. “It was human error. We listed the wrong company name next to the contract information in the report.”

The contract (supposedly wrongfully) attributed to ThinkOn was the sixth-largest by cost. Meanwhile, the largest one went to GCstrategies, a company that received $9 million in funding from the government but has no office and fewer than 5 employees. GCstrategies subcontracted the work out to over 75 other private entities, the names of which the federal government says it cannot reveal.

The CBSA is yet to disclose the name of the company that actually got the $1.2 million ArriveCAN contract in question. An agency spokesperson did, however, say on Saturday that a full review of the CBSA’s contractor list is underway.

“Given the error, we are doing a full review of the list reported and will be in a position to share with your readers the company name in the coming days,” the spokesperson said.

ThinkOn wasn’t even the only mistake the CBSA made in its list. The agency also:

  • Listed Ernst & Young as a contractor that received $120,000 in ArriveCAN funding. A spokesperson for the company said on Thursday that “EY was not involved with the ArriveCAN app,” but revised that statement a day later to say that while Ernst & Young was not directly contracted to work on the ArriveCan app, it did provide “contracted resources” to the project by virtue of another existing contract with the CBSA.
  • Detailed “Maplesoft” as a contractor that was paid $626,000. Laurent Bernardin, CEO of software company MapleSoft, said his firm did not work on the ArriveCAN app at all. The CBSA confirmed this as a mistake and said that the contract work was conducted by Maplesoft Group, an Ottawa-based professional services company that is often confused with MapleSoft.

On Thursday, the House of Commons committee on government operations and estimates began hearings to investigate the Liberal government’s management of and spending on the ArriveCAN app.

Several federal departments have been ordered to provide documents pertaining to the ArriveCAN app. Canada’s border agency has already handed over its share of documents (which now require correction), and other departments have until the end of the month to submit theirs.

According to the CBSA’s breakdown, ArriveCAN began as an $80,000 expense but is now on pace to cost a whopping $54 million by the end of this fiscal year.

Update (Monday): Added instances of two other “errors” with the CBSA’s list of contractors. 

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