$54M ArriveCan App Under RCMP Investigation Over Scandal Claims
Conservative MP John Williamson, chair of the public accounts committee, has announced an emergency meeting for Thursday to hear from Auditor-General Karen Hogan and Deputy Auditor-General Andrew Hayes regarding the status of the ArriveCan app audit, reported the Globe and Mail earlier this week.
The House of Commons is currently on recess for Thanksgiving. The meeting is a response to an RCMP investigation into allegations of misconduct linked to contracting for the $54 million dollar taxpayer-funded ArriveCan app. The app’s original budget started at $80,000.
These allegations were initially brought forward by Botler, a company that had performed contract work for the CBSA. Botler was involved in a pilot project related to detecting sexual harassment, funded from a larger $21.2 million contract that also covered work related to ArriveCan. Founders of Botler recorded their conversations with IT consultants and federal employees, essentially whistleblowing on the ArriveCan app’s obscure tendering process.
The pilot project and the ArriveCan app both involve the same three technology companies—GCStrategies, Dalian Enterprises, and Coradix—and were overseen by some of the same senior public servants. Both projects also feature layers of subcontracting that obscure key details, such as the nature of the work and payment recipients.
Last fall, the House of Commons voted 174 to 149 in favor of auditing spending on the ArriveCan app, which is expected to exceed $54 million. The motion was approved despite objections from Liberal MPs. This week’s meeting with the Auditor-General was requested by Conservative MP Kelly McCauley, who stated that federal officials should have informed MPs about complaints regarding the companies involved.
Botler co-founders Ritika Dutt and Amir Morv had raised formal concerns about the three IT contractors in September 2021 and again in November 2022.
The Globe and Mail first reported the investigation last week, revealing that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) had also received warnings about questionable relationships between IT consultants and federal officials.
The developers said they were first approached by GCStrategies’s managing partner, Kristian Firth, via LinkedIn in late 2019. Mr. Firth said he was reaching out on behalf of his “client,” who he later said was the CBSA’s then-director general, Cameron MacDonald.
Ms. Dutt and Mr. Morv say they were shocked to discover that after interacting with GCStrategies and Mr. MacDonald for months, the funding for their software was approved through an agency contract with another company – Dalian – without their knowledge. They say they had never heard of Dalian at the time and never worked with any Dalian employees.
Office spokesperson Vincent Frigon confirmed that the Auditor-General’s report on ArriveCan is planned to be tabled in Parliament before the holiday recess on December 15. The RCMP investigation will not impact the audit, according to Frigon.