One cause of the cost explosion of the firearms registry program has been the need to replace the entire computer system being used.
The original system, carrying a price tag of $227 million to develop and maintain, collapsed when it could not handle the more than 1,000 technological changes required by the program. Design failures contributed to the system's inadequacy to the task. Therefore another contract, this one to the tune of $36 million, was given last year -- to two firms.
CGI Group of Montreal is developing the computer system and programming for a $31-million price tag. Another $4.7 million is being paid to BDP Business Data Services for developing the business process functions of the system.
When the development phase has been completed and the system is accepted by the Canadian Firearms Centre, the two firms are in line to extend their nine-month contract by an additional 15 years to take on the task of operating and maintaining the registry and licensing program on behalf of the centre. This cost has been estimated to be in the neighbourhood of $14 million per year over the contract's term.
Alliance MP Garry Breitkreuz alleges that the CGI contract fails the "smell test" because he contends that a company that donates large amounts to the governing party should not get regular government contracts.
CGI donated $16,000 to the federal Liberals in 2000 and a further $11,312 in 2001.
A spokesperson for CGI has said her firm has been supplying computer technology services to the federal government for many years before this current contract. CGI has more than $290 million in federal contracts listed on the Public Works Dept. website.