The drama surrounding Ottawa’s contentious ArriveCAN app is dragging on after Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) missed a key deadline for submitting invoices related to the development of the border application.
CBSA president Erin O’Gorman told MPs on Monday (Nov. 14) that her agency doesn’t know the names of the independent subcontractors who created the app and made no promises to provide that requested information to a federal committee, reports say.
Earlier this month, opposition MPs passed a motion calling for an audit into the now-optional travel tool.
The motion, with the backing of Conservative, Bloc Quebecois, and NDP MPs, called on the Auditor General of Canada to "conduct a performance audit, including the payments, contracts and sub-contracts for all aspects of the ArriveCan app, and to prioritize this investigation,” as reported by CTV News.
The audit relates to transparency concerns related to Ottawa’s outsourcing tactics.
In October, the Globe and Mail found that the company that received the most work to build ArriveCAN, GCstrategies, is an Ottawa-based firm with fewer than five employees that relies heavily on dozens of subcontractors.
But both the government and the company are saying they cannot reveal the names of the subcontractors for confidentiality reasons.
This is one factor driving calls for a formal audit. The app’s soaring costs are also raising eyebrows.
It was recently revealed that the $80,000 it cost to create ArriveCAN will balloon to at least $54 million by March 2023, according to a cost breakdown released to media last month
"When $54 million goes out the door and government officials can't get their story straight about where it went, the least we can do is have an audit," Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said earlier this month.
On Monday, Committee chair MP Kelly McCauley expressed disapproval of the CBSA’s leadership for failing to comply with the committee’s order to produce documents, according to The Globe and Mail.
“I would ask you to get back to us as soon as possible and express as chair my disappointment at CBSA for continuing to drag this out,” he said.
ArriveCAN was originally a mandatory requirement for travellers to upload their health documents, but recently became a voluntary option.
For months, the Canadian government has been promoting ArriveCAN’s effectiveness, unveiling upgrades to the app, such as the optional “Advance CBSA Declaration” feature, which is available at select Canadian airports.
This allows travellers to answer customs and immigration questions up to 72 hours in advance of flying into Canada.
O’Gorman told MPs on Monday that she could not say how long it will take for CBSA to submit the roughly 500 requested invoices due to delays related to translation, the Globe reported.
She admitted that she doesn’t have a list of subcontractors: just “information relating to those who have held the contract directly,” she said.
At the end of Monday’s two-hour meeting, the committee unanimously approved a motion from NDP MP Gord Johns asking the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman to review Ottawa’s contracting work related to the app, the Globe reported.
MPs on the access to information, privacy and ethics committee also approved a separate study into the privacy implications of outsourcing contracts related to ArriveCAN.