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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Bus Eireann hits back over claims of bribery

Sam Griffin

Published 21/04/2014 | 02:30

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Bus Eireann bus
Bus Eireann bus

BUS Eireann has hit back at allegations of bribery at the company, saying there is no evidence to support the claims.

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In a strongly worded statement released last night, the semi-state company launched a scathing attack on the whistleblowers who have made the claims.

The company also criticised some media reporting of the allegations, insisting the claims had been "orchestrated" as part of a "co-ordinated and determined campaign" to damage Bus Eireann's reputation.

Five whistleblowers – all of whom operated school bus services on behalf of Bus Eireann – have now come forward, claiming they had to pay bribes and provide other kickbacks like free holidays and gifts for senior personnel to hold on to their contracts.

The new allegations regarding Bus Eireann's €166m school transport scheme were revealed in a Sunday newspaper.

According to reports, one whistleblower said he had to pay for a senior Bus Eireann employee's return flights to Alicante in Spain.

Another whistleblower said he was bullied and intimidated, while another said he was forced to bribe Bus Eireann staff with cash in brown envelopes.

Last night, Bus Eireann issued a statement claiming the father and family members of one of the whistleblowers had contacted the company to say they didn't believe the allegations made by the contractor.

The company defended its school bus services and said the latest allegations were investigated in a 2012 High Court challenge taken by a group of American bus operators, which they lost on all counts.

However, the company confirmed it has forwarded affidavits by the whistleblowers to the gardai.

"To help bring this matter to a conclusion, we have brought affidavits received to the attention of An Garda Siochana as for the first time they allege cases of direct bribery."

A garda spokesman could not comment but it is expected the affidavits will be examined before it is determined whether a wider investigation into the firm is needed.

An inquiry into the claims by Bus Eireann previously found no grounds to discipline staff members or refer the matter to the gardai.

RECORDING

However, the Dail's Public Accounts Committee will examine a secret recording made by one of the whistleblowers of an interview conducted during that inquiry.

The recording appears to contradict Bus Eireann, which had claimed the whistleblower had withdrawn many of the allegations.

Irish Independent

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