Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday responded to a question about explosive allegations of threats and lies made by one current government official against another over events related to the app ArriveCan, calling them “extremely important.” I’m concerned.”
Cameron Macdonald, Health Canada’s assistant secretary-general, told MPs on the Government Operations Committee on Tuesday that he has received threats from Minh Doan, the federal government’s current chief technology officer. He said it happened during a phone call in October 2022 over what officials should tell lawmakers about who had chosen the two-person IT staffing firm GCStrategies to build the app.
At the time of the call, Doan was deputy director and chief information officer at the Canada Border Services Agency. McDonald was the agency’s director during the early days of the ArriveCan app, and Doan was his former boss.
CBSA was primarily responsible for building and maintaining ArriveCan.
“I was not personally involved in that decision,” Doan told lawmakers last month about hiring GCStrategies.
Mr MacDonald told MPs on Tuesday that it was Mr Doan who chose GCStrategies.
“It was a lie that got me on this committee. We all know that,” McDonald said.
Conservative MP Pierre Poièvre gave evidence during question period on Wednesday.
“Obviously, the reports that are coming out are extremely concerning,” Prime Minister Trudeau responded. “And I know that the respective authorities take this matter very seriously. We expect professional public servants to act with the utmost integrity at all times. . And I’m sure that will continue to happen.”
Mr. Doan currently works in the Finance Committee Secretariat. TBS referred questions regarding Mr. McDonald’s testimony to the CBSA. CBSA declined to comment.
Health Minister Mark Holland, who heads MacDonald’s department, gave brief comments to the Globe, but said he needed time to review the facts.
“I just became aware of this, so I’m obviously concerned after seeing the testimony. I’m going to take a look. I need time to digest it,” he said after the Wednesday morning caucus meeting.
A heated conversation between Doan and McDonald occurred in October 2022, when the Globe and Mail reported earlier that month that the cost of building and maintaining the app was on track to exceed $54 million. This happened after it was reported.
“During the phone call with Minh Doan, I felt incredibly threatened,” MacDonald told lawmakers. He said Doan said then-Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino was dissatisfied with Alivecan’s reporting and wanted “someone’s head on a platter,” and that the CBSA said McDonald had hired GC Strategies. He said he had informed members of Congress that he was prepared to inform them.
Mendicino said those were not his words.
“I did not participate in any conversations with these people and did not use the language that I allegedly used,” he said in an email to the Globe on Wednesday.
The Globe also reported that the company that received the most outsourced work on the ArriveCan project was GCStrategies. The company later told lawmakers it had just two employees, no separate office and no IT operations of its own. They subcontract the work and receive commissions of 15 percent to 30 percent.
The Government Operations Committee recently expanded its ongoing investigation into ArriveCan costs, including consideration of new contract issues first reported by the Globe on October 4 of this year. The Globe reports that Montreal software company Bottler, which worked on the Border Agency project, used multiple layers of subcontracting and private staffing companies that hid key details about who was being paid what. He is said to be against cozy relationships with civil servants.
Bottler did not work on ArriveCan, but the allegations involve GCstrategies and two other IT staffing firms that also worked on ArriveCan: Coradix and Dalian.
The CBSA has launched an internal audit and referred Bottler’s allegations to the RCMP for investigation. This week, CBSA President Erin O’Gorman announced that the CBSA is temporarily suspending all contract work with three IT staffing companies.
Poièvre questioned why the government turned to GCStrategies for the ArriveCan project.
“It’s not just $54 million. A two-employee IT company has been given $11 million to do nothing. The same company has gotten $60 million from this Liberal government since 2017 alone. ” he said Wednesday.
Prime Minister Trudeau said the government is cooperating with all related investigations.
“If we find any issues of misconduct, we will ensure that the appropriate authorities are investigating and of course the government will always ensure full cooperation with the investigating authorities,” he said.