ArriveCan App Firm Awarded $258 Million by Trudeau Govt. Since 2015

The tiny consulting firm known as GC Strategies, operating from a bungalow in West Ottawa and employing just a handful of staff, has been awarded approximately 140 contracts totalling nearly $258 million since 2015, including 46 without competitive bidding, as reported by La Presse on Wednesday.

This total tally of contracts received has come under major scrutiny, following the Auditor General’s report on the ArriveCan app snafu on Monday.

“The contracts with this company have been suspended since around November 2023, roughly when the Auditor General began [her audit],” stated Minister Duclos in a press scrum before the weekly Liberal caucus meeting. “This applies to the Border Services Agency, so everything that relates to my colleague Minister LeBlanc,” he added.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), under the purview of the Public Safety Ministry led by Dominic LeBlanc, awarded nearly half of these 140 contracts to GC Strategies for various IT services over the past eight years. Minister LeBlanc was unavailable for comment to the press on Wednesday morning, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not stop to address the issue.

The Auditor General’s report, released on Monday, highlighted irregularities in the awarding of contracts totalling $19.1 million to GC Strategies by the CBSA, specifically for the development of the ArriveCAN app. This sum represents nearly a third of the app’s eventual $59.5 million cost, which was initially budgeted at $80,000. The app was designed to collect contact details and vaccination status of travellers entering Canada during the pandemic.

“This is probably one of the worst instances of financial record-keeping I have ever seen,” the Auditor General stated, criticizing the agency for paying incomplete invoices to consultants. GC Strategies was involved in setting the criteria for the tender it won without a competitive process and later hosted a whisky tasting for senior officials responsible for the project, raising questions about the impartiality of the process.

An investigation into the conduct of certain CBSA employees involved in the matter was initiated in 2022, resulting in two employees no longer working with the agency. Some information has also been forwarded to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

The findings of the Auditor General cast doubt on all contracts awarded to GC Strategies since the Liberals came to power. Attempts by La Presse to contact the firm’s associates, Kristian Firth and Darren Anthony, and two other employees were unsuccessful.

“There are no details or indications that what we noted on Monday extends to other contractual aspects with GS Strategies, but as a precaution, all contracts with GC Strategies are suspended,” Minister Duclos clarified.

He noted that procurement processes have been tightened since November, “when the Canadian government realized that in managing ArriveCan, there was a glaring lack of proper accounting, management, and information sharing.”

The Conservative Party, through Quebec political lieutenant Pierre Paul-Hus, plans to request Auditor General Karen Hogan to investigate all contracts awarded to GC Strategies over the past eight years.

“After seeing the ArriveCan scandal, where GC Strategies received $20 million for no work, we learn that this same company, which only has two people [though La Presse’s checks suggest four employees], was awarded contracts worth $258 million. […] We are asking the Auditor General to investigate each of the contracts awarded to GC Strategies to really understand what happened,” said Paul-Hus.

Something doesn’t seem right when a tiny consulting firm consisting of two founders and maybe four staff receives over a quarter billion taxpayer dollars in 8 years. Add to the fact the total spending on the ArriveCan app (at least $60 million) will be nearly impossible to find out due to a missing paper trail, there seems to be more to this story than meets the eye.

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