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Federal Auditor-General Karen Hogan is expanding her investigation into spending on the ArriveCan app to include new allegations of misconduct reported by The Globe and Mail, and said on Thursday that she is disappointed top government officials had not told her team about a related investigation by the RCMP.

Ms. Hogan made her comments during an emergency meeting of the House of Commons public accounts committee, which was scheduled in response to The Globe’s report that the Canada Border Services Agency had been alerted to allegations of improper contracting practices and cozy relationships between the public service and the private companies that worked on the app. The Globe also reported that the agency had referred the allegations to the RCMP, who have decided to launch an investigation.

As a result of the Globe report, Ms. Hogan said, her office will be re-interviewing government officials, and seeking interviews with new witnesses. Ms. Hogan launched her ArriveCan audit earlier this year, after The Globe revealed that the app, initially designed as a way of streamlining pandemic-era border crossings for travellers, had cost $54-million to develop.

She is also extending her timeline for reporting her findings to Parliament. Her initial plan was to table a report before the House of Commons rises in December, but she said her office is now aiming to present its audit report at some point in early 2024.

Ms. Hogan said federal officials should have told her team that allegations had been referred to the RCMP. Instead, she said, she became aware of this only when she read it in The Globe.

“Through the course of our audit, we always ask questions linked to actual, suspected or alleged fraud. And we would expect that there’s an ongoing responsibility for officials to keep us informed of any matters that are relevant to the subject that we are auditing. And so I am disappointed that they did not tell us,” she said.

Conservative MP Larry Brock expressed incredulity during Thursday’s hearing that no government official had told auditors about the police investigation.

“Are you saying that your office, you in particular, found out that the RCMP is investigating the contracts under the $54-million ArriveCan app not by the government of Canada itself, but from reading the Globe and Mail story?” he asked.

“Yes,” Ms. Hogan replied.

“Management had not informed me that they had referred a contracting matter which involved many common players that we are looking at, to the RCMP. The morning that the newspaper article was released, senior management did reach out to my office and my team has been in contact with them and in continuous dialogue since then.”

In addition to the Canada Border Services Agency, Ms. Hogan said her auditors are in touch with officials at Public Services and Procurement Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada as part of the ArriveCan audit.

Border agency spokesperson Guillaume Bérubé provided a statement Thursday that did not directly address why the CBSA did not inform the Office of the Auditor General about the police investigation. “We have been engaged with the OAG on the ArriveCan performance audit, and will continue to do so. We await the OAG findings and will act on them,” he said.

The misconduct allegations were brought to the agency’s attention by a company called Botler, which performed contract work for the CBSA. The company worked on a pilot project related to detecting sexual harassment. The project was funded from a larger $21.2-million contract for general services that was also used by the CBSA to fund outsourcing work related to the ArriveCan app.

The pilot project and ArriveCan involve the same three technology companies, GCStrategies, Dalian Enterprises and Coradix. And the two projects were overseen by some of the same senior public servants. They also both share layers of subcontracting that keep key details – such as what the work involved and who received payments – from being disclosed to the public.

Botler co-founders Ritika Dutt and Amir Morv previously told The Globe they were urged to work with GCStrategies by then-CBSA director general Cameron MacDonald. After the pilot project was approved, they said, they were shocked to discover that the main contract was with Dalian – a company they had never heard of – and subcontracted to GCStrategies, with each company proposing to collect substantial commissions. They later learned that Coradix was submitting invoicing-related reports to the CBSA that used their personal information without permission and exaggerated their work experience.

Since 2017, GCStrategies has received $46-million in federal funding. And over the past 10 years, Coradix and Dalian, which share the same office and often operate as a joint venture, have received a combined $362-million.

GCStrategies was caught in a political storm after The Globe reported in October, 2022, that the company had received more than $9-million – more than any other contractor – to work on the ArriveCan app. The CBSA has since released updated figures showing GCStrategies received $11.2-million, and that Coradix and Dalian received a combined $4.3-million.

Kristian Firth, managing partner of GCStrategies, told a Parliamentary committee last year that his company has no stand-alone office and just two employees, himself and his business partner, Darren Anthony. Neither of them perform IT work themselves. Instead, they hire subcontractors to do the work, and GCStrategies collects fees of between 15 per cent and 30 per cent of contract values.

GCStrategies, Dalian and Coradix have not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Globe about Botler’s allegations.

Ms. Hogan said her office normally does not comment on audits that are in progress. She added that The Globe’s report “covers one half of the story,” and that she would like to hear from the private contractors directly.

“It has caused me as an auditor to ask my team to go back and and make sure that we’ve covered off everything we should have. We have the intention of re-interviewing people we interviewed and asking them questions. We have intentions of interviewing new people, as a result of the article,” she said.

Mr. Brock, a former assistant Crown attorney in Southwestern Ontario, told Ms. Hogan that in his opinion Botler’s allegations are extensive.

“When you go with a deep dive into the particular story, it goes beyond misconduct. It goes into criminality. And that’s why the RCMP is investigating it,” he said during the meeting. “There are allegations regarding identity theft, fraudulent forged resumes, contractual theft, fraudulent billing, price fixing, collusion, all with senior bureaucrats with the Government of Canada and the three contractors in question.”

Thursday’s meeting was scheduled for two hours, but Liberal and NDP MPs voted to shut down the hearing after about 40 minutes of testimony from Ms. Hogan.

Liberal MP Jean Yip said MPs ended the meeting because it was clear Ms. Hogan had nothing further to say. She said she was “surprised to hear that the allegations of misconduct had not come up,” but that she trusts the Auditor-General will “get to the heart of this issue.”

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