‘False’: Main contractor on ArriveCan app disputes auditor general’s finding

'False': Main contractor on ArriveCan app disputes auditor general's finding
A company that held the main contract for ArriveCan is set to appear in front of a House committee meeting today, as opposition parties continue to question the app's bloated cost. A person holds a smartphone set to the opening screen of the ArriveCan app in a photo illustration made in Toronto, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giordano Ciampini

The company that held the initial contract for the ArriveCan app says it was paid millions less than what Canada’s auditor general said last month.

GC Strategies partner Kristian Firth is appearing before the government operations committee today alongside his lawyer.

Firth says he “painstakingly” went through invoices and spoke with contractors and concluded that GC Strategies was paid approximately $11 million for the app.

He says his company kept a $2.5-million commission for its work, while the rest of the money went to other contractors hired to help develop the app.

The federal auditor general reported last month that the overall cost of the app was more than $60 million and GC Strategies was paid more than $19 million, but the government’s record-keeping was inadequate.

Firth says “virtually everything” the media has reported about his company is “false.”

He says GC Strategies held three contracts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but none of them were narrowly focused on ArriveCan — so he says he can understand why it was hard for the auditor general to determine the total cost.

Wednesday marks the third time Firth has testified before MPs about the issue. His business partner Darren Anthony is set to meet the committee on Thursday.

The two IT recruiters did not build the app, but were tasked by the federal government with assembling a team to complete certain parts of the project.

The government ultimately hired the team, but the team did not include any employees of GC Strategies.

Firth previously testified that GC Strategies was not responsible for the direction of the project, objectives, budgeting or cost controls and that it was the federal government that managed the overall project.

Auditor general Karen Hogan found that three government organizations that managed the project failed to keep accurate financial records and didn’t deliver the best value for taxpayer dollars spent.

She said Ottawa drove up the cost of the project by relying on external contractors because it didn’t have the resources needed to develop the app during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government launched the app in April 2020 to track health and contact information for people entering Canada during the pandemic, and to digitize customs and immigration declarations.

GC Strategies was awarded the initial ArriveCan contract through a non-competitive contract, the auditor said.

There was no evidence that GC Strategies submitted its own proposal, the auditor found.

Canada Border Services Agency said it asked three potential contractors to submit a proposal to develop the app, and it only received one proposal from a different company.

Last week, the government suspended the security status of GC Strategies, which prevents it from bidding or working on government contracts.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2024.

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