Commissioner Probes Alleged Destruction of ArriveCan Records

Canada’s Information Commissioner has revealed the launch of an investigation into the alleged destruction of records related to the development of the controversial and overpriced ArriveCan app.

This investigation by Commissioner Caroline Maynard, which spans from March 2020 to February 23, 2024, aims to address concerns about accessing and obtaining records concerning the ArriveCan app development and contract process, reports the National Post. Maynard made the announcement on late Friday, which flew under the radar.

The Globe and Mail’s reporting last month on an internal complaint by a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) employee triggered this investigation. The complaint centres on accusations against Minh Doan, the nation’s chief technology officer, alleging he manipulated data files, resulting in the destruction of emails and documents. These documents were possibly linked to GC Strategies, the firm behind the federal government’s ArriveCan app development.

“I am deeply concerned that this all seems to be part of a pattern by certain individuals to deflect attention, to blame me for their actions and decisions, discredit, and harm my reputation, despite growing evidence that demonstrates I had no relationship with any of the vendors in question,” said Doan to the Globe at the time, claiming he is a scapegoat.

At the time GC Strategies was contracted for the ArriveCan app, Doan served as the CBSA’s Vice-President and Chief Information Officer.

GC Strategies, which secured a $2.35 million sole-source contract in April 2020 for the app’s creation, outsourced the project, leading to a surge in costs to an estimated $60 million. The final cost may never be known as the paper trail is no where to be found. The firm, which has received $20 million for ArriveCan alone, never did any work but outsourced the project to contractors.

The controversy extends to the handling of access-to-information requests related to CBSA’s interactions with GC Strategies, spotlighting the small IT company embroiled in the ArriveCan debacle, known for its significant government contracts since 2017. The two leaders of the company have been summoned to Ottawa to testify again.

The investigation is backed by the Access to Information Act, enabling Maynard to probe into the matter based on “reasonable grounds.” However, due to confidentiality provisions safeguarding the integrity of such investigations, further details remain undisclosed.

This investigation follows a critical report by Canada’s auditor general, pinpointing ArriveCan’s cost at an estimated $59.5 million—led by poor record-keeping and unclear financial trails regarding spending, labour, and contracting decisions. The final cost may never be known, as paper trails have suddenly disappeared.

The report also highlighted ethical concerns, including undisclosed acceptance of vendor gifts by government employees involved in the ArriveCan contract. Auditor General Karen Hogan criticized the lax procedures during emergencies, emphasizing the expectation of higher standards from the public service.

The ArriveCan app is available for iPhone and Android. Out of 25 major updates for the app during COVID, almost 50% were released to the public without any testing, revealed Hogan’s report. Also, over 10,200 iPhone users were also wrongly instructed to quarantine or face fines of up to $5,000 by the ArriveCan app.

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