BUS ÉIREANN HAS maintained that it does not make money on the school transport scheme despite reports that an independent review has found there is a “profit element” to the arrangement with the State.
According to the Sunday Business Post (paywall), consultants RSM Farrell Grant Sparks (FGS) found allowances paid by the Department of Education to Bus Éireann for “estimated indirect costs” and “implicitly, to provide for a reasonable profit element”.
The report was completed in 2011 but withheld until last month because it was thought to be “commercially sensitive”.
In a statement to TheJournal.ie today, Bus Éireann said that “all monies generated…are invested back into the scheme”.
A detailed breakdown of the School Transport Management Charge element of the scheme is prepared by Bus Éireann and is submitted to the Department of Education and Skills and more recently this information is also published on their website.
The company also took issue with comments made by MEP Jim Higgins. He told Siobhán Brett of the Sunday Business Post that the report shows “undisclosed Bus Eireann profits”.
Its statement continued:
Bus Éireann greatly resents the insinuation of corruption which is a totally unjustified smear on its school transport employees who have worked diligently and faithfully for many years in providing bus services to the children of Ireland.
“On the charge of ‘unlawful state aid’, it has previously been confirmed by the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills that ‘the State has maintained the operation and administration of public service obligation transport services and the school transport scheme respectively are in accordance with the provisions of EU law’.”
We welcome FGS’s recognition of our network of local offices with considerable transport management and network planning skills and will continue to invest in school transport to improve service quality, delivery and safety standards, and meet our obligations with dedication and professionalism at all times.
Bus Éireann manages the school transport scheme on behalf of the State. The company says it provides more than 4,000 jobs to private bus operators as a result.
Last year, it contracted €110 million of services to bus owners who deploy over 85 per cent of the vehicles used.
Separately, the Irish Mail on Sunday reports that Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has received a report from the company into allegations of bribery within the operator.
A number of weeks back, the newspaper reported that a number of new whisteblowers have claimed that giving free holidays and offering hotel stays to staff were required to win contracts to operate school bus services.
Journalist Michael O’Farrell says there are at least five people who have come forward with allegations of corruption within the scheme.
Gardaí have been informed of the situation.