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ArriveCan contractor exec became public servant after project was completed, company says

David Yeo's firm Dalian Enterprises was contracted to work on the ArriveCan app. (ParlVu - image credit)
David Yeo's firm Dalian Enterprises was contracted to work on the ArriveCan app. (ParlVu - image credit)

Dalian Enterprises, one of the contractors that worked on the controversial ArriveCan app, says its president and founder David Yeo only became a public servant after the project was completed.

It was reported last week that Yeo was an employee of the Department of National Defence (DND). He was subsequently suspended pending an investigation.

"Due to the serious nature of the concerns raised, DND is launching an internal investigation into the matter. The individual has been suspended while this investigation is underway. We are in the process of suspending contracts with Dalian," a department spokesperson told CBC News in an email last week.

But the company told CBC News in an email that Yeo only became a DND employee in September of last year, months after the company had completed its contract on ArriveCan.

"Since Mr. Yeo became an employee of the Department of National Defence, he has not participated in any Dalian proposal, project, contract, venture or other activity relating, directly or indirectly, to the Department of National Defence or any Government of Canada organization," a statement from the company said.

"He has not had any involvement in the management or operations of Dalian, and he has not had access to Dalian confidential information of any kind."

Dalian emailed CBC News this week after not responding to earlier requests for more information. Dalian and Yeo declined interview requests from CBC News.

Auditor general Karen Hogan responds to a question on her offices report  during a news conference, Monday, February 12, 2024 in Ottawa.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Auditor general Karen Hogan responds to a question on her offices report during a news conference, Monday, February 12, 2024 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Auditor General Karen Hogan said the cost of the ArriveCan app ballooned in part because of the government’s over-reliance on outside contractors. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

CBC News asked DND for confirmation that Yeo began working for the department in September. A departmental spokesperson declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

Yeo's LinkedIn profile — which has been deleted recently — previously indicated that he had been with DND since 1987. But Dalian said in its email that Yeo had served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1987 to 2001, before founding Dalian in 2002.

Although the company said Yeo hasn't had any involvement in Dalian's operations since September, he did appear at the House of Commons government operations committee in October. At that committee, he presented himself as Dalian's president and founder.

"I am an executive on the board of directors for Dalian, and I maintain all of the governance as it relates to the [procurement strategy for Indigenous business] and make sure that the company is absolutely in line, in step, with everything that relates to procurement and government contracting within the federal government," he told the committee.

CBC News asked Dalian for clarification on Yeo's October testimony.

CBC News previously reported that Dalian has been awarded more than$200 million in government contracts since 2015, according to documents tabled in the House of Commons.

Those documents indicate that Dalian had a number of contracts active as of November. Dalian also had contracts with the federal government that were signed after he went to work for DND.

Dalian is one of a number of companies in the spotlight following an auditor general's report that found the cost of the ArriveCan app exploded in part due to the government's over-reliance on outside contractors.

Auditor General Karen Hogan said the public paid "too much" for the app and that a total cost is "impossible to determine" due to poor financial record keeping. Hogan's best estimate is that the project could have cost up to roughly $60 million.