Wednesday 24 January 2018

Bus Eireann staff 'did not seek kickbacks' for schools contracts

Bus Eireann
Bus Eireann
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

BUS Eireann has rejected claims employees sought bribes and other kickbacks to secure lucrative contracts to operate school transport services.

An internal report due to be published today, seen by the Irish Independent, says that allegations made have not been backed up with evidence, and that there was no basis to take disciplinary action against any employee or to refer the matter to An Garda Siochana.

While it said it could not "categorically conclude" that the incidents "never happened", there was "no evidence" to suggest that gifts were received by employees from contractors seeking contracts.

There was also "no evidence" that any party was deliberately excluded from a public tendering process or obtained a contract by "improper or corrupt" means.

Bus Eireann operates school transport services on behalf of the Department of Education, catering for some 114,000 pupils every day.

It costs €109m to operate the service, and the vast bulk of the routes are operated by private contractors on behalf of Bus Eireann.

In September 2013, an allegation was made against two Bus Eireann employees with regard to the operation of the services.

The complaint was submitted by Tim Doyle, of Student Transport Scheme Ltd (STS), to the Department of Education.

STS lost a legal action against the State in 2012 requiring it to open up the scheme to public tender. The decision has been appealed to the Supreme Court. In addition, Bus Eireann has taken a defamation case against Mr Doyle.

The allegations claimed that bribes had to be paid and other kickbacks provided – including free holidays and gifts to senior Bus Eireann personnel by private contractors seeking to retain their contracts.

Some 1,494 private companies operated the school transport system, with 313 being paid more than €100,000 a year to provide the services.

The internal report was prepared by the company following a request from Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.

The investigation involved a solicitor and two senior managers, because the allegation was made against employees and not against the company itself.

"The Bus Eireann employees named in the complaint strongly denied all of the allegations," the report says.

"Bus Eireann's own procurement records do not support the allegations.

"Bus Eireann has consistently said that any party with evidence of wrongdoing should report this to the relevant authorities, namely An Garda Siochana. The procurement process operated by Bus Eireann is open, transparent, legitimate and fair.

The company added that it would "fully cooperate" with any investigation into alleged wrongdoing.

Irish Independent

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