Bus Éireann acts after inquiry
BUS ÉIREANN has disciplined a senior member of staff following an investigation into the operation of the school transport scheme at one of its local offices, the State-owned company has confirmed.
The company, part of the State’s CIÉ group, operates the €166 million-a-year school transport scheme on behalf of the Department of Education, making it responsible for bringing about 120,000 children to and from the Republic’s schools every day.
Much of the work is done by small, privately owned operators hired as subcontractors by inspectors responsible for the scheme in the State company’s local offices.
Bus Éireann confirmed yesterday that an investigation into “school transport matters” in its Limerick office, which began in 2010, resulted in the company taking disciplinary action against one individual.
The company only takes disciplinary action against staff members when they have been found to have breached Bus Éireann’s guidelines.
Its statement did not say what issues were investigated, but it is understood that they included the allocation of contracts to private operators, including one for a special needs route.
The investigation did not result in any funds being returned to the Department of Education, which pays Bus Éireann to operate the school transport scheme.
A US-backed group, Student Transport Scheme Ltd (STS), wants to tender for the contract to provide school transport services.
It claims that it would be able to do so at less than the €166 million a year paid by the Department of Education. Earlier this year, STS argued in a High Court case that the service should be put out to tender in the same way as any other State contract.
The court has yet to rule on the matter.
Bus Éireann has operated the scheme since 1969 and it has never been put out to tender. STS argues that, while the company is State-owned, it is an independent operator in the same way as any other commercial entity.
The group is backed by IC Bus, part of US-based Navistar, a multi-national which manufactures trucks, buses and other heavy vehicles. The group has said that it will also begin manufacturing buses for the domestic and export markets if it were to get the school transport contract.
Navistar made more than $400 million (€317 million) profit last year on the back of $14 billion (€11.1 billion) in sales. The group ended its financial year with $1.2 billion (€950 million) in cash balances.