EDITORIAL: We need answers about the ArrivalCan app

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The intrigue over why the development of the federal government’s ArriveCan app cost a massive $54 million intensified last week when Auditor General Karen Hogan told an emergency meeting of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee that government officials had not told her about a related investigation told the RCMP. She had to read about it in the Globe and mail.

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Last week, Hogan said her staff would re-interview senior government officials and speak to new witnesses as a result of the newspaper’s revelations.

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Your results, due in December, will now be postponed until the new year.

Allegations of misconduct have been filed with the government by a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) contractor. This private company was asked to work with companies recommended by a senior CBSA official. They were shocked to learn that the main contract was held by a company they had never heard of and that they had been subcontracted to another company, both of which earned large commissions.

The managing partner of one of these companies, GCS Strategies, told a parliamentary committee last year that his company only had two employees – himself and his business partner. None of them performed IT work and they did not have a dedicated office. The work was subcontracted.

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Software developers in the private sector expressed disbelief at the enormous cost of the app. A software developer was able to reproduce the app over a weekend for $250,000.

This complex web of nepotism was referred by the CBSA to the RCMP. Conservative MP Larry Brock was shocked to learn in the Globe that Hogan had learned of the police investigation.

“Management had not informed me that it had referred a contract matter involving many common players we were investigating to the RCMP,” Hogan said. Management contacted her the day the story appeared and has remained in touch ever since.

This is a government that rewards our military by five cents and forces soldiers to buy their own helmets. So how could so much taxpayer money be spent on an app that is no longer mandatory for travel?

All levels of bureaucrats, officials and politicians must work together to ensure that both the comptroller and the RCMP have the information they need to get to the bottom of the matter.

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