ArriveCan contractor calls auditor general’s damning report ‘inaccurate’

Click to play video: 'ArriveCAN: GC Strategies partner testifies, criticizes auditor general report'
ArriveCAN: GC Strategies partner testifies, criticizes auditor general report
WATCH: GC Strategies was paid $19 million to create the controversial ArriveCAN app, according to the Auditor General Karen Hogan, placing the two-man company under intense scrutiny. Now MPs have had the chance to grill Kristian Firth, one of the company's partners. Abigail Bimman explains – Mar 13, 2024

A partner at GC Strategies – the IT firm at the centre of the ArriveCan scandal – says his reputation has been damaged by “false information” and what he calls an “inaccurate” report by the auditor general.

Kristian Firth, one of two men behind the company, faced questions for more than three hours by a House of Commons committee studying the problem-plagued program.

“Virtually everything reported about my company in the media and stated about me and my company has been false,” Firth told MPs Wednesday.

“The amounts paid to GC Strategies are not the astronomical amount being claimed by some,” he said in his opening remarks.

Click to play video: 'ArriveCAN contractor’s security status suspended'
ArriveCAN contractor’s security status suspended

Firth says his company was paid $11 million for ArriveCan, disputing the auditor general’s findings that GC Strategies received almost double that: $19 million.

Story continues below advertisement

He blamed the discrepancy on flaws in the government’s “financial systems.”

When asked, Firth told MPs he had never been contacted by the RCMP about ArriveCan, adding that neither has his partner Darren Anthony, who is scheduled to appear before the same committee Thursday.

Firth repeatedly refused to answer questions about officials he met outside government offices, insisting he can’t comment because of “fear” of interfering in what he called an “RCMP investigation.”

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

Global News reached out to the Mounties about Firth’s testimony.

Click to play video: 'Auditor general slams feds’ poor management of ArriveCAN app'
Auditor general slams feds’ poor management of ArriveCAN app

“In regard to the ArriveCan investigation, as previously reported the RCMP is currently assessing the available information and will take appropriate action. Given the ongoing status of both of these matters, the RCMP will not be providing additional information,” said RCMP spokesperson Robin Percival in a statement Wednesday.

Story continues below advertisement

Firth testified virtually with his lawyer present but said he only did so because he was “compelled” by a subpoena.

The contractor said he and his family have been harassed and threatened and that appearing before committee went “against the medical advice” he received because of “undue stress.”

The government hired his company, GC Strategies to build the pandemic-era app, which collected information on traveller vaccination status and COVID-19 testing while restrictions were in place. The firm then subcontracted the work to several companies.

Firth testified that after paying subcontractors and expenses, he took home $2.5 million in profits for the program, which he worked on for about “30 to 40 hours” a month.

His company is now suspended from bidding on federal contracts and its security clearance has been put on pause.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau says it’s ‘obvious’ rules weren’t followed in ArriveCAN development'
Trudeau says it’s ‘obvious’ rules weren’t followed in ArriveCAN development

The decision came weeks after auditor general Karen Hogan released a damning report finding the government spent at least $59 million on ArriveCan, but that it was impossible to determine the final amount because of a “glaring disregard” for basic management practices.

Story continues below advertisement

The auditor general called the project one of the worst examples of financial record-keeping she has ever seen and found scant explanation as to why GC Strategies – a small consulting firm – was awarded the initial contract.

“There was little documentation or proof as to why they were selected or how they had the skills and competencies to deliver on the contract,” Hogan said last month.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the ArriveCan scandal at a news conference Wednesday in Calgary and vowed to make “significant changes.”

“We have seen that procurement processes and contract processes within the public service are sometimes unacceptable. That’s why we have launched investigations,” he told reporters.

Ottawa launched ArriveCan in April 2020 to track health and contact information for people entering Canada. But it led to long waits at airports and technical glitches and forced thousands of people to quarantine by mistake.

Problems with the app are now part of a proposed class action lawsuit.

Despite the issues, Firth told the committee he still thinks ArriveCan was a success.

“I think it did exactly what it was supposed to,” he said.

Sponsored content