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Cameron MacDonald and Antonio Utano appear before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on Feb. 22.Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

The federal government’s chief technology officer and top officials at the Canada Border Services Agency are part of a widespread cover-up of cost overruns for the ArriveCan app, two former senior leaders at the agency told a Commons committee during three hours of heated testimony Thursday.

The meeting ended with MPs voting unanimously to ask the public service integrity commissioner to investigate all allegations of wrongdoing related to the development of the pandemic-era app for cross-border travellers.

Cameron MacDonald and Antonio Utano appeared for a second time before the Commons committee on government operations, which has held months of hearings into the cost of the ArriveCan app and related allegations of contracting misconduct at the CBSA.

Since they first testified in November, the men have been suspended without pay, a move they said was in retaliation for telling the truth about who made the final decision to hire GCStrategies, the two-person IT company that received the most contract work on the app project.

On Thursday, Mr. MacDonald again accused chief technology officer Minh Doan of lying to MPs and said the responsibility for hiring the company belongs to Mr. Doan, who was the agency’s vice-president at the time. He also accused Mr. Doan of covering up his involvement by destroying records.

“I think it’s pretty clear that tens of thousands of e-mails were deleted by Minh Doan,” said Mr. MacDonald, without providing evidence.

The unprecedented finger-pointing about who is ultimately to blame for ArriveCan’s cost follows Auditor-General Karen Hogan’s report that found a “glaring disregard” for basic management practices as the price to build and maintain the app grew to an estimated $59.5-million. The report said GCStrategies, which received $19.1-million to work on the app, was directly involved in setting narrow terms for a $25-million contract it ultimately won.

“This almost feels like a street fight among public servants,” Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk observed at one point.

Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Utano worked together at the agency on the app project and were also involved with another technology project that triggered a complaint that was ultimately referred to the RCMP.

Mr. MacDonald was later promoted to assistant deputy minister at Health Canada while Mr. Utano is currently a director-general at the Canada Revenue Agency.

Mr. MacDonald repeated his previous claim that Mr. Doan had threatened him as the agency privately debated how it would explain the app’s cost to Parliament.

The Globe reported last month that a CBSA IT employee submitted an internal complaint to agency investigator Michel Lafleur alleging that Mr. Doan took steps that led to the destruction of e-mails that would have been relevant to an access to information request. Mr. Lafleur told MPs earlier this month that he had yet to find any evidence that documents were destroyed, but that his review was continuing.

Mr. Doan has rejected all of Mr. MacDonald’s allegations. He told The Globe last month that the allegations seem “to be part of a pattern by certain individuals to deflect attention, to blame me for their actions and decisions, discredit, and harm my reputation, despite growing evidence that demonstrates I had no relationship with any of the vendors in question.”

The CBSA issued a news release Wednesday stating that 40 CBSA servers were made inaccessible during infrastructure maintenance, which will result in processing delays of access to information requests.

Mr. Utano pointed to that announcement during his testimony. “There’s been cover-up and doubling down, if you will, to try and protect and withhold information from us.”

Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Utano said they were not the ones who set the terms of the $25-million contract with GCStrategies. Mr. Utano did acknowledge that he provided an initial level of approval for an earlier contract with GCStrategies, a fact that was noted by the Auditor-General, who said Mr. Utano signed a contract requisition that “carries with it responsibility and accountability.”

Mr. MacDonald also confirmed when asked that small bottles of whisky arrived at his door for a virtual whisky tasting to mark the app’s one year anniversary. The Globe reported last month that invitations for the event were sent by GCStrategies managing partner Kristian Firth.

“I had a package arrive at my house,” Mr. MacDonald said. “There were little vials of whisky.”

“Vials of whisky?” Conservative MP Michael Barrett repeated.

“Yes. These were after contracts were in place,” MacDonald said, adding that there were four or five small vials.

Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Utano said any food or gifts received from vendors were disclosed to their superiors. Mr. Utano held up a grey ArriveCan-branded packsack with an Amazon logo as an example. The Auditor-General said Amazon received $7.9-million in contract work for ArriveCan.

“Is this bribery? Does this committee really think I can be bribed for a $17 knapsack?” he asked.

The Auditor-General’s report said situations were found where agency employees involved in the ArriveCan project were invited by vendors to dinners and other activities. The report said “we found no evidence that these employees informed their superiors as required.”

The two men were suspended in January after their departments were provided a preliminary statement of facts report compiled by Mr. Lafleur’s team of internal investigators into allegations of contracting wrongdoing that were presented to the agency by Montreal software company Botler in November, 2022.

At the time, the agency referred Botler’s allegations related to inflated résumés and cozy ties between contractors and public servants to the RCMP, which is investigating.

Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Utano are seeking a court order to shut down the CBSA’s internal probe, which they say is unfair and biased.

“Without interviewing us, or a single witness, the CBSA had prepared a report called the preliminary statement of facts. The reality is this document is nothing more than a collection of baseless accusations, unsupported by any corroborating evidence, accusations of wrongdoing, supported by cherry picked e-mails and calendar entries. It should be called the preliminary statement of falsehoods,” he said.

Throughout their three hours of testimony they pointed fingers in many directions, accusing the current CBSA president and other agency leaders of lying; claiming Ms. Hogan’s findings were based on incomplete information and sharply criticizing Botler’s co-founders.

At one point, Mr. MacDonald alleged that Mr. Doan had a “fake heart attack” and went on medical leave after he reported to a supervisor that Mr. Doan had threatened him.

NDP MP Taylor Bachrach challenged Mr. MacDonald’s comment. “You seem to have taken great umbrage, Mr. MacDonald, at other people making statements that are not factual when they involve you. And yet you’ve made a statement that I don’t believe is supported by fact concerning Mr. Doan.”

Mr. MacDonald apologized for the comment.

“If it’s disrespectful, I take it back,” he said.

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