Two long-awaited reports into the government’s controversial ArriveCAN app are set to be released soon.
The reports by the Auditor General of Canada and the Office of the Procurement Ombud will come out over the coming days, with the former being released Feb. 12.
Deputy auditor general Andrew Hayes shared the date with members of the House’ public accounts committee on Thursday. His office issued a news release confirming the date on Friday.
The auditor general was tasked with assessing the controversial application, which was launched in April 2020 as a way to manage travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The audit was “looking at whether the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Public Health Agency of Canada, and Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) managed all aspects of ArriveCAN, including procurement and expected deliverables with due regard for economy, efficiency and effectiveness,” Hayes said.
He said he was not able to discuss the report’s findings as it hasn’t been tabled before Parliament yet. The House of Commons adopted a motion calling on the auditor to conduct an ArriveCAN audit on Nov. 2, 2022.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Office of the Procurement Ombud told Global News in an email on Friday that its report will be published on its website “on or around” next Monday.
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MPs on the House operations committee asked the ombud on Nov. 14, 2022, to “assess whether contracts awarded by departments in relation to the ArriveCAN application were issued in a fair, open, and transparent manner, and whether contracts awarded on a non-competitive basis were issued in compliance with the Financial Administration Act, its regulations, and applicable policies and procedures.”
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The office began its work last January, and said it was looking into all contracts, contract amendments, standing offer agreements, supply arrangements, task authorizations and service orders for ArriveCAN that were awarded/issued before Dec. 31, 2022, from the CBSA, PSPC and Shared Services Canada.
While ArriveCAN was launched to help the country’s response to COVID-19, it proved to be a controversial tool fraught with technical setbacks.
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A glitch in the app in 2022 sent more than 10,000 fully vaccinated travellers erroneous messages saying they needed to quarantine. Global News learned it took the government 12 days to notify travellers of the error.
There was also the issue of price: an early estimate for the app’s preliminary development put the cost at just $80,000 — but the total price tag has since soared to more than $54 million.
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Then last January, the Globe and Mail published a story detailing the contracting process: Ottawa IT firm GCstrategies, which the government contracted to take on ArriveCAN and other projects to the tune of $44 million over two years, actually subcontracted the work to build it to six other companies.
They included international firms KPMG and BDO — which then hired the IT workers to actually build the application.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last January called the contracting process “illogical” and “inefficient.”
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That issue made its way through Parliament last year, including at an operations committee meeting on Nov. 14.
There, a former top Canadian border official faced pressure over whether he lied to a committee probing the contract.
Minh Doan, now the federal government’s chief technology officer, testified under oath for more than two hours after a former subordinate directly accused him of lying at a previous hearing.
The questioning included several instances of MPs expressing frustration they could not get straight answers out of Doan and a reminder from the chair that Doan refusing to answer questions can result in a charge of contempt of Parliament.
“The decision I was asked to make was to fully outsource the work or to have my team oversee the application development,” Doan told the committee on Tuesday.
Doan said he chose to partially outsource the work, due to wanting to have CBSA control over timelines and ensure sensitive data was stored on the organizations cloud servers. He added at no point in his emails and subsequent emails was the firm GCStrategies mentioned.
He also said he did not recall discussing the firm.
Despite being asked numerous times by committee members, Doan maintained he is not aware of who specifically first contacted GCStrategies, the firm ultimately used to develop the app, and said this is under investigation by the CBSA.
— with files from Global News’ David Baxter
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