Operators terminate contracts with Transclean

Metro Trains Melbourne and Yarra Trams have terminated their contracts with services provider Transclean.

Transclean has been at the centre of the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission’s (IBAC) Operation Esperance, which has heard that Transclean boss George Haritos gave cash to V/Line CEO James Pinder and Metro Trains fleet operational manager Peter Bollas in return for favourable treatment.

There has been no allegations of any corrupt behaviour between Transclean and Yarra Trams.

On Friday, November 6, Metro Trains CEO Raymond O’Flaherty said that Transclean would no longer provide cleaning services to the Melbourne rail operator.

“A rigorous tender process is already underway to appoint a long-term cleaning supplier to provide the highest standard of daily cleaning for Metro’s train fleet,” he said.

“We will make further announcements regarding this ongoing tender process at the appropriate time.”

Metro Trains had already suspended and subsequently terminated the employment of Peter Bollas, with an auditor to review procurement and probity processes.

“Metro remains committed to the highest standards of integrity across our organisation.”

Transclean had been providing after-hours depot security services to Yarra Trams since 2017, however the operator will now be looking for a new contractor.

“Yarra Trams is terminating its contract with Transclean for after-hours depot security, and has provided the company 30 days’ notice,” said a Yarra Trams spokesperson.

A routine audit of Transclean found that there was procedure and performance issues with Transclean’s security services for Yarra Trams. These were raised with the company but were not responded to.

A separate company has provided cleaning services to Yarra Trams, including COVID-19 deep cleans.

O’Flaherty said that Metro was ensuring cleaning met community standards.

“I again want to reassure our passengers that we have a range of measures in place to ensure the daily cleaning and sanitisation of our trains meets the standards they expect. These measures include audit teams regularly checking the standard of this work.”

V/Line

V/Line, Metro Trains take action following inquiry: reaffirms need for integrity

The V/Line board has taken action to underline the unacceptable nature of the evidence heard at the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) inquiry this week.

In a statement from the V/Line chair Gabrielle Bell, the regional operator announced it had terminated the employment of former CEO James Pinder, who has been the subject of the first days of the IBAC hearings as part of Operation Esperance.

“Following the public hearings of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) this week as part of Operation Esperance, the V/Line Board of Directors has terminated the employment of James Pinder from his position as CEO, effective today,” said Bell.

V/line will also no longer work with the cleaning company at the centre of the hearings.

“The V/Line Board has also provided notice of termination of the contract with cleaning supplier Transclean Facilities Pty Ltd. V/Line will work to support the front-line cleaning staff who may be affected by this decision,” said Bell.

Late on Thursday evening, Metro Trains Melbourne CEO Raymond O’Flaherty also issued a statement. O’Flaherty said that Metro would not tolerate behaviour described in the hearings.

“Metro has zero tolerance for any behaviours or actions that compromise our commitment to safety and integrity across our organisation,” said O’Flaherty.

“I take the evidence presented at the IBAC Operation Esperance public hearings very seriously. “

Pinder, along with Metro Trains Melbourne fleet manager Peter Bollas, are alleged to have received cash payments of $8,000 and $10,000 from Transclean managing director George Haritos.

Metro has also terminated Bollas’s employment and O’Flaherty announced that the operator is appointing an independent auditor to review procurement and probity processes. O’Flaherty noted that the operator is already in the tender process for selecting a new cleaning contractor.

Bell reiterated that the alleged behaviour had no place within V/Line.

“The alleged conduct of both Mr Pinder and Transclean is not acceptable to V/Line under any circumstances,” said Bell.

“All V/Line employees and contractors are expected to uphold the highest levels of integrity and the Board of Directors is committed to ensuring this happens at all times.”

Pinder has been replaced since August by acting CEO Gary Liddle. Bell said Liddle would continue until further notice.

“V/Line has fully cooperated with the IBAC investigation and will continue to do so,” said Bell.

Inquiry hears of improper contractor payments and lax safety oversight at V/Line and Metro Trains Melbourne

The first days of hearings as part of an inquiry into the handling of Victorian public transport contracts have heard that individuals within rail operators V/Line and MTM failed to uphold ethical best practices when it came to contracts and hiring.

The current inquiry, Operation Esperance, is the second time in three years that V/Line has been the subject of an Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) investigation, with Operation Lansdowne in 2017 investigating the awarding of training contracts by the regional operator.

Operation Lansdowne found evidence of nepotism and improper procurement, and in hearings held since Monday this week, former CEO of V/Line James Pinder was heard offering a job to his friend and Metro Trains Melbourne fleet manager Peter Bollas to manage facility contracts, including all cleaning.

While Bollas did not ultimately take the job, Pinder acknowledged that the conversation he was having with Bollas was duplicitous, considering that V/Line was responding to the findings of Operation Lansdowne at the time.

“I accept now and I accept then it was inappropriate,” said Pinder.

Pinder has been the focus of the inquiry’s first three days, which has alleged that Pinder received a loan of $320,000 from cleaning contractor Transclean managing director George Haritos after awarding a V/Line cleaning contract. The inquiry has also heard that Pinder and Peter Bollas received monthly cash payments from Haritos of $8,000 to $10,000 each.

Pinder has said that the payments were part of a gambling syndicate that involved himself, Haritos and Bollas. Bollas has said that he was never involved in a gambling syndicate with Pinder.

Under questioning from counsel assisting Paul Lawrie, Pinder said that the funds that went through the syndicate were sometimes used by Haritos when Transclean was having cashflow issues and that Pinder couldn’t be sure whether the funds that he received were from Transclean or Haritos personally. The funds were always in round amounts and delivered discretely.

IBAC Commissioner Robert Redlich questioned why there needed to be secrecy around the distribution of funds from the gambling system and why Pinder had written a note to Haritos telling him to provide a false reason for the payment of that money.

Pinder replied, “Rightly or wrongly I was panicked and I thought that the fact that I was in a gambling syndicate with somebody that was a supplier to V/Line whilst not necessarily illegal was inappropriate.”

IBAC also heard that Transclean staff were in life threatening situations. In one incident, a cleaned went underneath a Metro Trains train coupling without appropriate protection when the train’s pantograph was connected to the overhead wiring, creating the risk of electrocution.

The incident occurred while Transclean was attempting to secure the stations cleaning contract with Metro Trains Melbourne. In an intercepted phone conversation between Pinder and Bollas, Bollas is heard discussing ways to underplay the incident as the fault of Transclean.

A Metro Trains spokesperson said that the operator was unable to comment.

“Metro is unable to comment while the hearings are ongoing.”

Upon contacting ARA, the spokesperson told Rail Express, “The rail industry has stringent processes in place to ensure procurement is grounded in principles that support a stronger, socially responsible industry for all of us. While this is a very unusual case, it is important we look to the outcomes of this process and learn from them.”

IBAC announces corruption investigation into V/Line and Metro

Victoria’s Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) has formally announced that it is conducting an investigation into serious corrupt conduct in Victoria’s public transport sector.

The announcement follows months of rumours which have swirled since V/Line CEO James Pinder was stood down by the Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll in August.

The investigation will focus on procurement and tendering processes within the Victorian public transport sector, with suggestions that cleaning contracts may be a focus.

IBAC commissioner Robert Redlich said the investigation would cover the management of contracts between V/Line, Metro and suppliers.

“The hearings will examine the effectiveness of controls associated with the proper delivery of essential services in the state’s public transport system during a time of critical importance to the health and wellbeing of Victorians,” said Redlich.

Hearings will begin on Monday, October 26 and be streamed online.

“As part of IBAC’s focus on preventing corruption, the public hearings will also consider whether the current systems and controls are sufficient to protect the integrity of the tendering and procurement process, and examine potential systemic issues, including how organisational culture and practices may have contributed,” said Redlich.

Hearings will look into whether contract tender and procurement processes were swayed by monetary incentives or gifts.

Since being stood down, Pinder has been replaced by Gary Liddle, who had previously steered V/Line through a troubled period in 2016 when safety concerns led to regional services not being able to travel through Melbourne. Nick Foa, head of transport services at the Department of Transport briefly stood in before Liddle was appointed.

Metro Trains rollingstock manager Peter Bollas was also stood down in August due to the same investigation.

V/Line

V/Line appoints acting CEO

V/Line has appointed Gary Liddle as acting CEO of V/Line.

Liddle will take over from Nick Foa, who stepped into the role after former CEO James Pinder was sacked.

Pinder was removed by Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll after Carroll was advised that the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) had launched an investigation.

Melbourne rail operator Metro Trains has stood down rollingstock manager Peter Bollas due to the same investigation.

Separately, V/Line has been taken to court by a cleaning contractor for alleged lack of payment between 2015 and 2018. Statements of claim have been lodged in the Victorian Supreme Court. V/Line said that it had received non-compliant invoices which led to the withholding of payment.

Liddle returns to V/Line having been enterprise professor of transport at the University of Melbourne. Before this role, Liddle was interim CEO of V/Line in 2016 and has also been CEO of VicRoads, and Public Transport Victoria.

V/Line board chair Gabrielle Bell said that Liddle will be a stabilising force within the regional passenger rail operator.

“Liddle returns to our organisation with extensive knowledge of our business, our customers, our challenges, and our opportunities. He will provide the leadership and support V/Line needs at this time.”

Liddle was brought in to V/Line in 2016 as the CEO at another troubled period for the operator. A safety incident in January 2016 saw a V/Line train failing to trigger a boom gate at a level crossing in Dandenong. This led to some services being prohibited from running on the Melbourne suburban network.

Foa will return to his role as head of transport services at the Victorian Department of Transport.

V/Line

V/Line CEO stood down

Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll has suspended V/Line CEO James Pinder.

Carroll made the decision due to advice from the Department of Transport that the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) had launched an investigation.

“On the basis of that advice, I directed the V/Line Board to immediately suspend Mr Pinder, while IBAC carries out its investigation,” said Carroll in a statement.

Nick Foa, who is currently head of transport services at the Department of Transport will step into Pinder’s role.

According to reports, IBAC is investigating the Department of Transport but is not providing any further information.

V/Line previously came to the attention of IBAC in its investigation into TAFE qualifications for workers.

V/Line and the Department of Transport were also subject to criticism by the Victorian Auditor-General over their handling of the Murray Basin Rail Project, with the stalled project having “not met scope, time, cost or quality expectations”.