Driver 'lost job after refusing to pay into boss's holiday fund'
A FORMER driver for Bus Eireann has claimed he lost his contract after refusing to contribute to an inspector's Spanish holiday fund.
The one-time school bus contractor also said paying backhanders to senior figures at the semi-state company cost him over €1,000 a year.
He claimed all bus operators were expected to pay.
Taxpayers ultimately paid for the backhanders, he claims, as he would factor the payments into the price he charged to run the school bus routes. The routes are funded by the Department of Education.
In relation to the "holiday fund", he said the inspector would travel a couple of times a year to Alicante in Spain with a bus operator and all their accommodation costs and flights were paid for.
The driver alleges that taxi operators who brought disabled children to school were also expected to provide free transport for these individuals' family and friends at a moment's notice.
The claims are made in an unsigned affidavit to the Department of Education & Skills.
The department pays Bus Eireann to run the school bus scheme, which is now at the centre of the "bribes for bus routes" controversy.
Bus Eireann has published the affidavit and urged the former contractor to immediately contact gardai.
However, the company also published details of an internal investigation into the allegations – and this found there was no basis for taking any disciplinary action against any staff.
The investigation team could find no basis for referring any of the allegations to the gardai.
In a statement, Bus Eireann insisted it tendered all contracts in a "fair and transparent fashion".
The driver claimed he first became aware of wrongdoing at the company when an inspector told him there was a "blocking system".
He said this meant that a person's name went on to a blacklist if it was felt he should not get contract work.
The driver said he was asked to drive an inspector and area manager to functions and parties and they would discuss "getting rid" of drivers they did not like.
At one stage, he said an inspector was asking for "favours" two or three times a week, and almost every day for several weeks.
He said once operators went into debt to pay for their vehicles in expectation of their contracts being renewed, they did not have the option to refuse, or leave. The driver said he was expected to buy a €120 gift for an inspector on one occasion.
He said he was asked to deliver school transport tickets to schools and measure the miles from children's houses to their schools, although this work was not part of his contract.
He said he was told there was a good chance his routes would go out to tender after he refused to contribute when the trip to Alicante came up again.
The driver said he lost his contract for the following school year, and it was given to someone else without being tendered.
He said he was faced with "financial turmoil" because he had a huge car loan and was not entitled to social welfare as he was self-employed.
"I never complained, I never missed a day, I never had an accident, I went above and beyond what my job was and then I just got cast aside because I couldn't afford the backhanders any longer," he said.
Bus Eireann said it had investigated all the allegations contained within the affidavit.
"Some of these allegations were withdrawn by him," it said. "Other allegations were substantially modified."
It said all of the allegations that concerned other individuals were not corroborated.
However, the inquiry's findings are allegedly disputed in a secret tape of a meeting between the contractor and Bus Eireann in which he stood over his claims, according to reports.