Overbilling in federal contracts | AI to tackle fraud

(Ottawa) The federal government is increasingly using artificial intelligence to detect fraudulent behavior and flush out entrepreneurs who inflate their invoices, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Jean-Yves Duclos, revealed Thursday.




Artificial intelligence makes it possible to quickly analyze a wealth of data from several ministries and identify behaviors that could contravene good accounting practices, explained the minister in an interview with The Press.

It is also thanks to the use of these new analysis capabilities “in just a few months” that the federal government was able to note that three information technology subcontractors had fraudulently invoiced $5 million to nearly 40 ministries and Crown corporations between 2018 and 2022, as Mr. Duclos and his Treasury Board colleague Anita Anand reported on Wednesday.

In an interview, Mr. Duclos reaffirmed that Ottawa expects to find other cases of fraud of this type in the coming weeks which could lead to new investigations by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

“The data and the capabilities to process this data on contracts in the Canadian government are improving every day. This is obviously due to the evolution of analysis techniques which resemble artificial intelligence and which means that the Canadian government is much more capable now in 2024 than it was a few years ago in difficult to detect fraudulent activities,” explained the minister.

PHOTO JUSTIN TANG, CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES

This is a message that is sent to contractors and subcontractors who are in a very small minority, but who could consider trying to defraud the Canadian government.

Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Public Services and Procurement

“We have methods of detecting these activities which are far superior to those we had in recent years. It’s a clear message that we want to send,” he added.

The use of artificial intelligence makes it possible to cross-reference data not only between federal government departments, but also between the various levels of government.

The three cases of fraud that were reported by the two ministers on Wednesday have already been transferred to the RCMP. The federal government has taken steps to try to recover the money overpaid.

These cases have nothing to do with cost overruns related to the design of the application ArriveCAN which were the subject of a damning report by Auditor General Karen Hogan last month.

In recent weeks, the Trudeau government has been the subject of strong criticism following the publication of Mr.me Hogan on the financial fiasco surrounding the app ArriveCAN.

In his report, Mme Hogan reported numerous irregularities in the contracts awarded by the Border Services Agency for the development of the application ArriveCAN, used at the border to enforce health measures during the pandemic. The initial version of the app cost $80,000, but its cost skyrocketed to $59.5 million. The firm GC Strategies, which has only two partners, obtained the largest share of this sum, i.e. 19.1 million.

The Ministry of Public Services and Procurement has since suspended GC Strategies’ security clearance until further notice. The firm thus finds itself completely excluded from the procurement process. Another two-employee firm, Dalian Enterprises Inc., also lost its security clearance. This suspension also affects the joint venture that Dalian had formed with Coradix Technology Consulting to obtain contracts reserved for Aboriginal people by the government.

While he affirms that taxpayers’ money must be managed in a prudent manner at all times, Jean-Yves Duclos was keen to emphasize that his ministry grants approximately $34 billion in procurement and some 400,000 contracts or contracts amended by year.

“Governments must always try to do better. It must be said that audits which are carried out every day by a large number of civil servants generally give reassuring results. But when we find gaps in the system, as was the case with the Auditor General in recent weeks, we must act,” said the minister.

Mr. Duclos also recalled that the federal government had succeeded, during the COVID-19 pandemic, in urgently purchasing vaccines, rapid tests and medical equipment, among other things, all by respecting the rules of sound management, as noted by the Auditor General following an investigation.

” In the case of’ArriveCAN, the Auditor General noted that a small number of public servants did not follow the rules that had been communicated during the pandemic. The rules during the pandemic were to act quickly and effectively to protect Canadians, but also to ensure that all appropriate and necessary information would be saved, shared and used later. There are some officials who did not do this work and they are suspended. »


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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