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ArriveCan documents heavily redacted 'blocking' committee investigation into $54m price tag: Tory MP

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Heavily redacted versions of ArriveCan documents submitted to a House of Commons committee in December 2022 ‘block’ MPs’ inquiry into the app’s $54million price tag, said Tory MP Kelly McCauley, who is also chair of the committee.

“I am very concerned that documents are being redacted, blocking our ability to see what the government was actually buying and how many units. All we get is a lump sum price,” McCauley told The Globe and Mail.

“I suspect the committee will likely bring another motion requiring unredacted documents.”

Government contracts and development costs associated with the ArriveCan app are currently under investigation by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (OGGO), which has begun its study on the question in October 2022.

On October 17, the committee asked the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to publish ArriveCan’s lists of subcontractors and invoices by October 31, but the federal agency failed to comply with the deadline due to delays in translation of invoices.

CBSA President Erin O’Gorman told the committee Nov. 14 that the agency did not have a list of contractors who worked on ArriveCan.

“We just have information relating to who held the contract directly with CBSA or PSPC [Public Services and Procurement Canada],” she said.

O’Gorman’s comments came nearly two weeks after a majority of House MPs voted Nov. 2 in favor of Auditor General Karen Hogan conducting a thorough review of the federal government’s $54 million spending. for the app.

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, a member of the OGGO committee studying costs and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, told The Globe he believed the CBSA should provide documents that give unredacted descriptions services provided by individual entrepreneurs.

“We should have a clear view of exactly what was paid in each case, and I would welcome a request to receive that information in an unredacted format,” Housefather said. “Provided that any commercially confidential information…is kept confidential by the Committee and not made public.

Committee work

The OGGO committee has yet to quiz federal ministers on ArriveCan’s costs after a motion McCauley introduced in October was revised to remove the section calling for at least five ministers to appear before the committee and respond to questions.

McCauley told The Epoch Times in a previous interview that the decision was “a blow to transparency.”

“It’s another kick in the face of the taxpayers who have to shell out all this money for a relatively small app,” he said Oct. 17.

The CBSA said in a previous email that the government only spent $80,000 to build and launch the ArriveCan app in April 2020. The total price rose to $54 million due to operations and maintenance, upgrades, technical support and other requirements over the past two years. years, said the CBSA spokesperson Sandra Boudreau.

“ArriveCAN is not just an information sharing app, it’s a secure transactional tool that uses industry standards,” she wrote on October 17.

MPs on the OGGO Commons committee questioned former CBSA chairman John Ossowski on Dec. 8 about ArriveCan’s costs and contracts.

Ossowski, who served as president of the CBSA from 2016 to June 2022, told the committee he was unsure whether the initial development work on ArriveCan was done in-house or outsourced to the department.

“Could the version we have today have been made for less money?” asked Tory MP Michael Barrett.

“If we were to come back to this, I’m sure there would be things the department would be willing to hear about as we move forward,” Ossowski replied.

“Looking back, I would say we were moving very fast.”

Pierre Wilson

Peter Wilson is a journalist based in Ontario, Canada.

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