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GC Strategies' Darren Anthony testifies virtually at the House of Commons committee on March 14, 2024.House of Commons

GCStrategies co-owner Darren Anthony agreed with his business partner’s assessment that the Auditor-General got it wrong as to how much their company was paid to work on the ArriveCan app – but also said he’s never read the report.

Mr. Anthony appeared Thursday before the government operations committee to answer questions about Auditor-General Karen Hogan’s findings regarding his company. The day before, the two-person company’s managing partner, Kristian Firth, appeared at the same committee.

In that hearing, Mr. Firth disputed Ms. Hogan’s recent finding that his company received $19.1-million to work on the app project, saying it was closer to $11-million. Mr. Firth said he did invoice the Canada Border Services Agency for about $22-million in work, but he disagrees with the Auditor-General as to how much of that should be attributed to ArriveCan versus other IT services.

When asked, Mr. Anthony said he agreed that Ms. Hogan’s conclusions were “incorrect” regarding his company. He was later asked whether he had read the report.

“I have not read it, no,” he said.

“How can you dispute the findings of the report if you haven’t read them?” asked NDP MP Taylor Bachrach.

“I agree with the numbers that Kristian ... gave in testimony yesterday,” he replied. He also said he had not read the report of the procurement ombud who, like Ms. Hogan, found that GCStrategies was involved in drafting narrow terms for a $25-million IT services contract, which it ultimately won.

“I just find this astounding,” Mr. Bachrach replied. “If I was an investor in this company, I would be very, very concerned. If I was a contractor for this company, I would be very concerned. And if I was the government contracting your company, I would be incredibly concerned that you’re not even following the bouncing ball when it comes to these major allegations against your company’s business practices.”

The committee has held months of hearings into federal procurement practices, the cost of the ArriveCan app and why the federal government leaned so heavily on the two-person company that has no office space and is registered to Mr. Firth’s private residence.

ArriveCan faces more scrutiny as Public Sector Integrity Commissioner opens investigation

Mr. Anthony played down his role on ArriveCan, saying his responsibility was limited to ensuring that subcontractors obtained the required security clearances to work on the federal government project. He said Mr. Firth handled all projects related to COVID and pandemic response.

After the release of the Auditor-General’s report, the federal government suspended all contracts with GCStrategies. Mr. Anthony said he has no plans to ever read the report.

“The damage has already been done for me,” he said.

In response to questions, Mr. Anthony said he and Mr. Firth kept their contracting work separate. He said 60 per cent of his work was with corporate clients, while the other 40 per cent was with various federal departments.

Even though he did not work on ArriveCan, Mr. Anthony said he and Mr. Firth split all company profits evenly. Mr. Firth testified Wednesday that the two of them collected about $2.5-million for about two years of work on ArriveCan that involved between 30 and 40 hours a month.

Mr. Firth has previously said neither he nor Mr. Anthony perform IT work themselves. Instead, the company wins contracts based on a stable of potential subcontractors and then puts together a team to complete the work requested by government. He has said he and Mr. Anthony retain a commission of between 15 and 30 per cent of the contract values.

According to public accounts data, GCStrategies has received $59-million in federal funding from all federal departments combined since 2017.

Conservative MP Larry Brock said that those figures suggest the two men have personally collected between $8.8-million and $17.7-million during that time, or between $4.4-million and $8.8-million each.

“You will probably understand that no Canadian has any sympathy for you, sir, in the situation you’re in, because that amount of money is something that’s almost akin to winning the taxpayer lottery,” said Mr. Brock.

Mr. Anthony declined to say how much he has personally been paid since 2015 through GCStrategies.

At another point, Conservative MP Garnett Genuis asked Mr. Anthony how much time he spent preparing for his committee appearance.

“Not a whole lot,” he said, describing his preparation time as a couple of hours.

“And you didn’t think that as part of that preparation, you should read the Auditor-General’s report?” Mr. Genuis asked.

“It was against my doctor’s wishes for me to be working. I have not been working since the start of December,” Mr. Anthony replied.

“Your doctor advised you not to read the Auditor-General’s report?” asked Mr. Genuis.

“He advised me not to work to lower my stress,” Mr. Anthony replied.

Both Mr. Firth and Mr. Anthony had previously defied a committee summons to appear, citing health concerns. They testified this week in response to a formal summons from the full House of Commons.

Mr. Anthony previously appeared alongside Mr. Firth during in-person testimony before the committee on Oct. 20, 2022, but Mr. Firth did all of the talking. The two men were invited back to appear on Nov. 2, 2023. They both appeared virtually, but Mr. Anthony had technical problems with his video feed and was dismissed.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Mr. Firth pledged to provide additional answers to MPs’ questions by 9 a.m. on Thursday, however the committee chair said Thursday that Mr. Firth had provided only about 25 per cent of the promised information.

The outstanding information includes a Conservative request for the identities of individuals who provided testimonials that appear on the GCStrategies website. The website includes eight quotes that appear to mostly be from federal government officials. The quotes provide job descriptions but not names.

“I think they truly understand the challenges of government,” states one quote attributed to a federal assistant deputy minister.

“GCstrategies understands our needs on a business and technical level,” states another official, described as “GoC - Chief Information Officer.”

Conservative MP Michael Barrett asked Mr. Anthony who provided the statements on the GCStrategies website.

“I am unaware of who wrote the testimonies,” he said.

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