Microsoft, not ThinkOn, received $1.2-million contract for work on ArriveCan

The Canada Border Services Agency has revealed that it was Microsoft, not ThinkOn, that received a $1.2-million contract related to the ArriveCan app, but the agency says it will take until next week before it can announce the results of its full review of related contracts.

The CBSA confirmed the recipient of the $1.2-million in contract work late Wednesday, a few hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was unable to clarify the matter during Question Period.

The Globe and Mail reported last week that Craig McLellan, chief executive of the company, ThinkOn Inc., had written to the Canada Border Services Agency to express concern that his business had been wrongly listed in a report to Parliament. The report said ThinkOn was one of 23 companies that had done federal contract work related to the government’s ArriveCan app, and that it had received the $1.2-million for its efforts.

The list of companies was tabled in Parliament in response to a written question from a Conservative MP. The document said ThinkOn provided “experimentation of mobile QR code scanning and verification.” Mr. McLellan said his company does not provide such services and never received any payments from the CBSA related to the app.

The CBSA acknowledged over the weekend that ThinkOn’s inclusion was a mistake caused by human error. The agency said in a statement that that it is conducting a full review of the list.

Microsoft was on the original list as having received contracting work valued at $129,800. In the statement, the CBSA said Microsoft provided two different services.

“We can confirm that the contract in question is with Microsoft, and not ThinkOn Inc. We have this contract, as well as a second contract with Microsoft, they are listed separately because the scope of work was different,” said CBSA spokesperson Sandra Boudreau.

The statement said the agency will provide a further update next week, “once the full review of the list is complete.”

During Question Period on Wednesday, a week after the error was first raised with the CBSA, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre asked the Prime Minister to reveal who did receive the $1.2-million. Mr. Poilievre referenced comments from some Canadian tech leaders, who said the ArriveCan app could have been created quickly for less than $1-million, rather than its projected cost of $54-million.

“The government claims that $1.2-million of that went to a company called ThinkOn. That company says it didn’t get that money. Who did?” Mr. Poilievre asked.

“The appropriate ministers are looking into this and making sure that the mistake that was made by public servants in sharing information is followed up on,” Mr. Trudeau replied. “It’s important to remember that we did a lot of things in a very unprecedented way during an unprecedented pandemic.”

Mr. McLellan has said he received an apology from the CBSA on Sunday. Reached Wednesday, he said he has not received any further information.

The Commons committee on government operations has set a Monday deadline for federal departments to hand over a wide range of internal documents related to the ArriveCan app, including contracts and invoices.

The app was…

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