ArriveCAN App Cost Taxpayers $60 Million or More: Auditor General

Arrivecan audit

An audit conducted by the Auditor General of Canada has uncovered mismanagement beyond what anyone could imagine in the contracting, development, and implementation of the ArriveCAN app by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Public Services and Procurement Canada.

The report, released on Monday, following a motion passed by the House of Commons in November 2022, highlights a series of failures that led to the project not delivering the best value for the taxpayer dollars spent, estimating the cost at a whopping $59.5 million. This number took a lot of effort to put together and the final cost is unknown, said the Auditor General. Previously, estimates were that ArriveCAN cost $54 million. Now it’s clear the final number will never be known.

Launched in April 2020, ArriveCAN was initially developed to collect contact and health information from travellers to help with quarantine measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as of October 2022, the application no longer collected travellers’ health information and now serves primarily for customs and immigration declarations.

The audit revealed that the CBSA’s poor documentation, financial records, and controls made it impossible to determine the exact cost of the ArriveCAN app. The decision to rely on external resources for the development of ArriveCAN significantly increased its cost, with the average per diem cost for external resources being $1,090, compared to the average daily cost for equivalent IT positions within the federal government at $675.

Further, the audit criticized the CBSA’s disregard for policies, controls, and transparency in the contracting process, which limited competition opportunities and undermined value for money. Specifically, the audit found little documentation supporting the decision to award the initial ArriveCAN contract to GC Strategies through a non-competitive process. It also noted that GC Strategies was involved in developing the requirements that the CBSA included in its request for proposal for the competitive contract.

GC Strategies and its two-man IT team were paid alone $20 million to find contractors for the app. Moreover, it was previously revealed 76% of contractors did not do any work on the app.

The report also highlighted deficiencies in contract management, with 18% of tested invoices from contractors lacking sufficient information to determine whether expenses were related to ArriveCAN or another IT project.

Additionally, the CBSA released 177 versions of ArriveCAN with minimal documentation of testing, leading to errors such as the incorrect instruction for approximately 10,000 travelers to quarantine in June 2022. Ouch.

The absence of a formal agreement between the Public Health Agency of Canada and the CBSA from April 2020 to July 2021 resulted in a lack of clear roles and responsibilities, further resulting in poor project management practices, says the Auditor General.

The Auditor General made several recommendations, including the need for the CBSA to maintain accurate financial records and fully document interactions with potential contractors. The report calls for improved compliance with contracting policies and the implementation of controls to prevent potential bidders from being involved in developing requests for proposals.

“We didn’t find records to accurately show how much was spent on what, who did the work, or how and why contracting decisions were made. And that paper trail, should have existed,” said Karen Hogan, Auditor General.

“Public Service did not receive best value for money. We paid too much for this application,” she added.

“This would be probably be the first example that I’ve seen, where there is such a glaring disregard for some of the most basic fundamental policy, rules and controls,” replied Hogan, when asked if this was the worst she’s seen under the current government.

From a budget of $80,000 to now at least $60 million or more. How much did the ArriveCAN app actually cost Canadian taxpayers? It seems like that number will never be known. Move aside folks, nothing to see here…

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