ArriveCAN scandal: another official tasted whiskey with GC Strategies

ArriveCAN scandal: another official tasted whiskey with GC Strategies
ArriveCAN scandal: another official tasted whiskey with GC Strategies

Another Border Services Agency (CBSA) executive admitted to having taken part in events organized in spring 2020 by the two men behind GC Strategies, including the famous virtual whiskey tasting, to discuss ArriveCAN.

• Read also: Three companies linked to ArriveCAN have raised more than 1 billion in 13 years

• Read also: ArriveCAN scandal: one of GC Strategies’ partners raided by the RCMP

“I made an error of judgment and I regret not informing my superiors and taking part in this event,” Chulaka Ailapperuma told the Public Accounts committee on Tuesday.

Now acting director at the CBSA, Mr. Ailapperuma was one of those responsible for the technical development of the ArriveCAN mobile application at the time of these meetings, in spring 2020.

This was around the same time that the initial contract for ArriveCAN was awarded to GC Strategies.

“I don’t think it’s common practice. [de participer à des événements avec des sous-traitants]», defended Mr. Ailapperuma. “At that time, ArriveCAN was a very intense project. We spent long hours working on ArriveCAN and I saw it as a team celebration, I wanted to socialize with some of my colleagues,” he continued.

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At least two other officials, Cameron MacDonald and Antonio Utano, took part in the virtual whiskey tasting and dinner at Joey Rideau restaurant in Ottawa with the two owners behind GC Strategies, Kristian Firth and Darren Anthony.

MM. MacDonald and Utano are no longer employed by the CBSA and investigations are underway to determine their role in the ArriveCAN scandal, the exact cost of which would reach nearly $60 million.

Bloc MP Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné noted the suspicious nature of these meetings, at a key moment in the process of awarding the contract to begin the development of ArriveCAN.

“On the one hand, a multi-million contract in a non-competitive manner was awarded to GC Strategies and, on the other hand, several CBSA officials […] were invited to a whiskey tasting, and no one [cru] good to declare this invitation [à ses supérieurs]“, she said.

The mismanagement of ArriveCAN is at the heart of several investigations at the same time. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is looking into the matter.

THE Globe & Mail revealed on Monday that the three companies most closely linked to ArriveCAN, namely GC Strategies, Dalian Technologies and Coradix Technology Consulting, have obtained more than $1 billion in federal contracts over the last 13 years.

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