IBAC’s ‘Operation Esperance’ hearings to probe corruption allegations involving major public transport contracts

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday October 15, 2020

Melbourne’s new high capacity metro train

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission will hold hearings this month as part of a probe into allegations of serious corrupt conduct involving the procurement of major contracts within Victoria’s public transport sector.

The investigation, Operation Esperance, has been looking into corruption allegations regarding the tendering, procurement and management of contracts within V/Line and Metro.

IBAC commissioner Robert Redlich on Thursday said the public hearings, to begin on October 26, would consider whether current senior public officers have improperly influenced the awarding of contracts.

“These public hearings will examine the integrity of the processes and management of certain major 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,” he said.

“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.”

The corruption watchdog launched an investigation into V/Line chief executive officer James Pinder in August, and he was immediately suspended. Just days later is was reported that Metro rolling stock manager Peter Bollas had also been suspended.

Redlich will preside over the hearings, and will be joined by counsel assisting Paul Lawrie of the Victorian Bar, and IBAC principal lawyer Joseph Amin.

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