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Trudeau Liberals block use of committee subpoenas to compel ‘Arrive-scam’ testimony

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Canada’s Auditor General has her work cut out for her with it being impossible to prove if government bureaucrats destroyed ArriveCan evidence sought by investigators.

“All these circumstances are just what they appear to be, circumstances,” Karen Hogan testified at the Commons public accounts committee Tuesday. “We still need accountability.”

According to a February 12 report on ArriveCan “irregularities,” Hogan said the evidence suggests favoured contractors received millions in payments without competent recordkeeping by federal managers. 

The Auditor General’s Office said 18% of invoices submitted by contractors that it tested provided insufficient information “to accurately attribute costs to projects.” Hogan called it the “worst” accounting she’s seen in years, estimating the cost to taxpayers at $59.5 million.

“We recognize with hindsight things should have clearly been done differently,” added Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

“What responsibility does the Trudeau government take?” asked a reporter. “The Trudeau government accepts that taxpayers’ money needs to be treated with the utmost respect,” he replied. 

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, aghast by the apparent lack of accounting, told the public accounts committee “the complete absence of documents suggests … documents were destroyed.”

“One of these things happened but you weren’t able to confirm which, is that correct?” asked Genuis. “Well, when documentation doesn’t exist it is either they never existed or they were destroyed,” replied Auditor Hogan. 

“In this case we can’t tell you which it was, but there is a glaring lack of documentation,” she added.

The report Preliminary Statement Of Facts alleged that a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) manager deleted four years of ArriveCan emails between 2018 and 2022. 

“The approximate amount of those emails is roughly seven gigabytes or 1,700 emails,” said Conservative MP Larry Brock during the testimony of CBSA executive director of professional integrity, Michel Lafleur.

“I have no evidence of that at this time,” said Lafleur, who notified the Auditor General of the allegations prior to her report going public.

Parliament launched ArriveCan in April 2020 for travellers to upload health information, such as vaccination status, at border crossings. It served as a mandatory prerequisite for travel until October 2022 despite rolling out 177 versions of the application.

Liberal MP Shaun Chen found the lack of records incomprehensible, reported Blacklock’s Reporter

“No project objectives and goals, no budgets, no cost estimates, no risk management activities,” said Chen. “This to me is beyond comprehension,” he added.

Despite the show of disgust among Liberal MPs, those on the government operations committee blocked the use of committee subpoenas Monday to compel testimony from ArriveCan contractors.

“This is putting us all in a rather precarious position,” said Liberal MP Charles Sousa, parliamentary secretary for the Department of Public Works that okayed the $59.5 million in ArriveCan contracts.

“It is important that we take a pause and suspend this issue until we have greater understanding even from the RCMP in terms of the implications,” he added. Conservative MPs sponsored the motion earlier this month. 

New Democrat MP Matthew Green endorsed the motion, whereas Bloc Québécois MP Julie Vignola opposed arresting reluctant witnesses to explain allegations of fraud, bribery and destruction of records. 

Conservative MP Michael Barrett later posed questions to the Public Health Agency of Canada on why it got the basics wrong with ArriveCan, having gone through four presidents during the COVID pandemic.

“Did you develop a budget for ArriveCan?” asked Conservative MP Michael Barrett of Heather Jeffrey, president of the health agency. “There was no overall project budget,” she replied. Jeffrey then acknowledged they had failed to prepare a budget for the application’s expected costs.

“Do you believe this failure to have a budget is the reason the cost of this project ballooned to at least $60 million for taxpayers?” asked Barrett. “This was an evolving situation,” replied Jeffrey.

“Do you recognize this is a major failing, this $60 million boondoggle?” asked Barrett. “We certainly recognize the failure to put in place a formal project governance at the outset of this project led to inadequate oversight of the project and meant costs were not appropriately tracked,” replied Jeffrey.

To make matters worse, two former CBSA executives faced suspension without pay due to the ArriveCan investigations, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. Brock predicted further consequences would surface from the “Arrive-scam boondoggle.” 

“Have you suspended with or without paying any of your employees involved in this scandal?” asked Brock. “No,” replied Jeffrey.

“All I am hearing is, ‘Sorry, we’ll do better,’” said Brock. “That’s not enough. Someone has to take responsibility. It is clear you, ma’am, as president have to assume responsibility.”



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