“A glaring disregard for basic management practices” — Auditor General on ArriveCAN

February 12, 2024
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The Auditor General of Canada’s February 2024 report regarding the procurement process around the ArriveCAN application is as scathing as it is unsurprising for anyone familiar with management at the Canada Border Services Agency.

While the report focuses mainly on the contracting and development aspects of the application, much of what the Auditor General’s office found will surely resonate with CIU members who are all too well acquainted with the Agency’s bottom-of-the-barrel labour relations practices.

In her opening statement to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the Auditor General noted the “glaring disregard for basic management practices” uncovered during the audit.

As our members know, this disregard for proper managerial procedures is deeply embedded within the Agency, often with little consequence for the managers. Be it in terms of the profound lack of accountability found at all management levels, of the tendency to retaliate against employees for speaking up, or of the poorly run, arbitrary internal investigative and disciplinary processes — CBSA management’s track record speaks for itself. While keen on punishing its lower-level employees at the slightest allegation, the Agency is known to turn a blind eye to far more serious breaches within management.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the procurement process that led to the Agency’s ArriveCAN application would be fraught with issues. And it should come as no surprise that the resulting product has been found to be of poor value to Canadians. What should also be stressed is how this poor value extends far beyond the mere economic aspect. ArriveCAN, in its current form, actively undermines the security of Canadians by removing crucial interactions between officers and travellers. It is the cornerstone of CBSA’s ‘border modernization’ strategy, which focuses entirely on facilitation with no thought for the safety and security of our communities.

With important security matters at the forefront of national discussions — stolen car exports, gun smuggling, the opioid crisis — it is especially galling to see the Agency squander in the worst possible way nearly $60 million on an app that ultimately does very little. It is irresponsible for the Agency leadership and for the federal government to inject such funds into a project of this kind instead of hiring much needed additional staff or seeking to improve existing infrastructure, which would bring real value to Canadians.

This is to say little of the Agency’s decision to spend dozens of millions of dollars on the private sector instead of choosing to invest in its workers and reinforcing their capacity to act on behalf of Canadians. At a time where our members are being nickeled and dimed at the bargaining table, this is nothing less than a slap in the face.

CIU members are proud of the work they do to serve Canadians and of their role as Canada’s first line of defence. Yet CBSA management’s actions continue to cast a shadow on the organization as a whole. The Auditor General’s report brings to light what many of our members have known for a long time, and we call on CBSA President Erin O’Gorman to seize this opportunity to overhaul the Agency so that debacles of the sort are no longer the norm.


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