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Company linked to ArriveCan controversy got $107 million in federal contracts, official says

The auditor general estimates GC Strategies received $19.1 million for ArriveCan. But that estimate only includes money paid to the company up to March of last year. (CBC / Radio-Canada - image credit)
The auditor general estimates GC Strategies received $19.1 million for ArriveCan. But that estimate only includes money paid to the company up to March of last year. (CBC / Radio-Canada - image credit)

The company at the centre of the ArriveCan controversy has received more than $100 million in federal government contracts since 2011, says Canada's comptroller general.

Roch Huppé told the House public accounts committee Wednesday morning that GC Strategies and its predecessor Coredal have been awarded 118 contracts totalling $107 million.

Media reports citing the federal government procurement database have suggested that GC Strategies alone received more than $200 million in government contracts.

A Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson told CBC News that contract entries in the database sometimes overlap — when changes are made to an existing contract already listed, for example.

Huppé told MPs that he has urged government departments to ensure the information in the procurement database is "complete and accurate."

"Providing accurate and open information about our contracts is essential to safeguarding the trust that Canadians put in their institutions," he said.

GC Strategies has faced heightened scrutiny ever since Auditor General Karen Hogan cited excessive reliance on contractors as a major factor contributing to ArriveCan's ballooning costs.

Hogan's report, released last month, estimates the project cost roughly $59.5 million. She also noted that the total cost is "impossible to determine" due to poor financial record-keeping.

The auditor general estimates that GC Strategies received $19.1 million for the project. But that estimate only includes money paid to the company up to March of last year.

The federal government launched ArriveCan in April 2020 to track health and contact information for people entering Canada during the pandemic, and to digitize customs and immigration declarations.

On Wednesday, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) announced that it had suspended GC Strategies' security status, effectively banning the company from bidding on new contracts with security requirements.

The government suspended all contracts with GC Strategies in November.

Comptroller asking for contract totals for other companies

Huppé said he has asked all government departments for a detailed list of contracts for two other companies tied to the ArriveCan controversy — Dalian Enterprise and Coradix — but has yet to receive the information.

Last week, CTV reported that Dalian's president and founder, David Yeo, is also an employee of the Department of National Defence (DND).

A CBC News analysis of documents tabled in the House of Commons shows the company has received more than $200 million in government contracts since 2015 — though the government database suggests it has won contracts as far back as 2004.

The government announced that it had suspended Yeo and its contracts with Dalian last week.

David Yeo's firm Dalian Enterprises Inc. was contracted to work on the ArriveCan app.
David Yeo's firm Dalian Enterprises Inc. was contracted to work on the ArriveCan app.

Dalian Enterprise president and founder David Yeo was employed by the Department of National Defence while the company also received millions in government contracts. (ParlVu)

Dalian was the second-largest recipient of public funds for the ArriveCan project, according to the auditor general. Hogan estimated that the company received just under $8 million.

PCPS announced Wednesday that it had suspended the contracts with Coradix, a separate IT firm that often works with Dalian on federal projects.

Yeo told the House government operations committee in October that Dalian and Coradix operate as a "joint venture under the procurement strategy for Indigenous business."

The government has pushed to ensure that a minimum of 5 per cent of federal contracts are awarded to Indigenous businesses.

Yeo said that he is the great-grandson of Chief Robert Franklin of the Alderville First Nation in Ontario. A spokesperson for Alderville First Nation confirmed Yeo's connection to the community.

But another IT firm, Botler AI, raised concerns about Dalian's contracting processes during a separate October committee hearing.

Botler's chief executive, Ritika Dutt, claimed Dalian is used by other companies who want government business because they can "go after Aboriginal contracts" by bidding with Yeo's firm as a joint operation.

Yeo denied Dutt's claims, telling MPs that they "don't ring true."

But the allegations prompted the government to announce a review of its policy on contracting with Indigenous companies.