A scathing report from the auditor general has found that the development of the national COVID-19 travel app, ArriveCan, was mismanaged to such a degree that the true costs associated with its creation may never be known.
ArriveCan started out as a piece of government software that offered a way to keep track of the health and contact information of people entering Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the program kicked off, the initial contract was valued at $2.35 million. Auditor General Karen Hogan estimates the app cost taxpayers roughly $59.5 million — but says the true figure will never be known, as the program was too poorly managed.
“So I’ve been an auditor for a few decades, I’ve been the auditor general for almost four years and I’ll tell you this is probably some of the worst financial record keeping that I’ve seen.” Hogan said at a press conference Monday.
She says the federal government ignored its own policies and drove up the costs of the app by relying on external contractors.
The report found that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) opted to use an external firm to create ArriveCan, as it lacked the necessary resources to do so internally.
However, highlighted in Hogan’s report was a lack of any evidence showing that the CBSA bothered to confirm the developer, GC Strategies, had the capability to do the work either and neglected to carry out any due diligence in what Hogan says is management that is missing at “the most basic level.”
The report found that 18 per cent of the invoices submitted by 32 contractors did not have the sufficient supporting documentation to determine whether it was related to the app.
CBSA officials have additionally expressed concerns that $12.2 million of the $59.5 million estimate could be unrelated to ArriveCan.
In addition to being poorly managed, the report found that the app was improperly tested, likely resulting in over 10,0000 false alerts that forced travellers to quarantine for 14 days.
Of the 177 times the mandatory app was updated, it was officially only tested three times.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre was quick to speak with reporters following the release of the report, saying the app went 750 times over budget.
“And after 8 years of Justin Trudeau, while you can’t pay your bills, while you can’t afford a home, he’s taken $60 of your tax dollars and given it to a corrupt app, arrive scam.” he said.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh didn’t shy away from voicing his thoughts on the app from the Liberal government during Monday’s question period at Parliament Hill.
“Let’s talk about the garbage decisions of this liberal government. The auditor general found that the Liberals wasted 60 million dollars on an app that no one uses, that doesn’t work at a time when Canadians are struggling with their groceries and their rent.” said Singh.
The federal government issued a statement in the wake of the report, saying in part, “The app was built during an extraordinary time and on an emergency basis. ArriveCAN data was an integral part of Canada’s monitoring program for the early detection and identification of new COVID-19 variants of concern.”
Between April 2020 and October 2022, 177 versions of the app were released, including one update that mistakenly instructed 10,000 travellers to quarantine.