$54 Million ArriveCAN Boondoggle Leads to Calls for Transparency

Canada’s ArriveCAN App

A growing chorus of advocates, critics, and concerned citizens are urging the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to provide transparency and accountability regarding the funding and expenditures of the ArriveCAN app.

Launched in APR 2020 as part of federal efforts to curb the spread of the virus, ArriveCAN was heavily promoted by the government as a time-saving tool for travellers entering and leaving Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, concerns about the financial aspect of the project have sparked a nationwide demand for a comprehensive accounting of the funds allocated. 

A Globe and Mail analysis in OCT 2022 revealed that the ArriveCAN app cost taxpayers $54 million, far exceeding initial public cost estimates.

"After spending at least 10 times what it should have for the ArriveCAN app, CBSA provided Canadian media with misinformation about how that happened," stated James L. Turk, director of CFE.

Apart from the exorbitant cost, the lack of transparency and inconsistent information regarding government contracts also contributed to investigations. Initially, CBSA informed media outlets that five companies had received contracts, but later documents submitted to Parliament revealed 27 contracts involving 23 unique companies.

As Open Jaw reported on 15NOV 2022, the CBSA also missed a federal operations committee-ordered deadline to hand over outsourcing invoices related to the ArriveCAN app and said it has no knowledge of the identity of the independent subcontractors who worked on the app.

"CBSA missed deadlines in providing answers to Parliament and ultimately said it did not have key information and made no commitment to finding it, a troubling violation of government transparency," Turk said.

The agency was recently recognized as the federal winner in the cheeky 2022 Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy, presented annually by the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), the Centre for Free Expression at Toronto Metropolitan University (CFE), and the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). 

The 'awards' aim to draw attention to government or publicly funded agencies that actively hide information from the public, which they have a right to access under the access to information legislation.

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