Audit Reveals Mismanagement in ArriveCan Development
OTTAWA – POLITICS – Canada’s Auditor General Karen Hogan has delivered a scathing critique of the management practices surrounding the controversial ArriveCan application, revealing a “glaring disregard” for basic management principles by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC).
In her recent performance audit, Hogan exposes significant failures in the contracting, development, and implementation phases of the COVID-19-era traveler contact app.
Key Agencies Under Fire
The audit, which scrutinizes the management and financial practices of the implicated agencies, highlights the project’s increased cost to $59.5 million, exceeding initial estimates and pointing to “impossible” cost calculation due to CBSA’s “poor financial record-keeping.”
Hogan’s report includes eight comprehensive recommendations for improving fiscal management and ensuring better documentation and deliverables for awarded contracts.
Cost Overruns and Lack of Transparency
The Financial Black Hole of ArriveCan
The auditor general’s report emphasizes the lack of transparency and accountability in the ArriveCan project, with many questions from parliamentarians and Canadians remaining unanswered due to inadequate documentation of spending and decision-making processes. The investigation into the project’s financial management reveals a concerning picture of over-reliance on external contractors, leading to inflated costs and questionable contract management practices.
Recommendations for Reform
A Call for Better Oversight and Accountability
Hogan’s recommendations urge federal departments and agencies to tighten their fiscal management practices and ensure comprehensive documentation and clear deliverables for contracts. This call for reform aims to restore accountability and transparency in the use of public funds, particularly in government IT projects.
Contracting Concerns and External Dependencies
Where Did the Money Go?
The audit uncovers a heavy dependence on external assistance, with CBSA, in particular, criticized for its management of contracts and payments. A shocking 18% of examined invoices lacked sufficient detail to verify their connection to ArriveCan, highlighting a systemic failure in project oversight and accountability.
Furthermore, the audit reveals inadequacies in the competitive process for awarding ArriveCan contracts, raising significant concerns about the value achieved for the money spent.
Beyond the Pandemic
Assessing ArriveCan’s Legacy and Value for Money Introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic as a mandatory tool for screening inbound travellers, ArriveCan’s utility and cost-effectiveness have come under scrutiny, especially after the app became optional in October 2022.
The auditor general’s findings question the continued reliance on costly external resources post-pandemic, challenging the government to justify the app’s expense and utility moving forward.
Amid ongoing investigations and calls for accountability, CBSA, PHAC, and PSPC have agreed to implement Hogan’s recommendations, marking a commitment to improving government IT project management and fiscal responsibility.
As the government and opposition parties prepare to respond to the audit’s findings, the spotlight remains on ensuring that future projects deliver better value for taxpayer dollars and adhere to stringent management and accountability standards.