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Since being stood down, Pinder has been replaced by Gary Liddle, who had previously steered V/Line through a troubled period in 2016 when safety concerns led to regional services not being able to travel through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”.