Melbourne Trains not cleaned properly during COVID by contractor paying off Metro manager, inquiry hears

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Melbourne's trains were not cleaned properly at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the cleaning contractor pocketing taxpayer's money for work that was not performed while secretly paying off a Metro Trains manager who was covering up the wrongdoing, an inquiry has heard.

An explosive intercepted phone call played to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission inquiry into allegations of serious corruption at V/Line and Metro Trains captures a heated exchange between Translcean boss George Haritos and Metro Trains' operational fleet manager, Peter Bollas, in April this year over the poor quality of cleaning on Melbourne's suburban trains.

Transclean staff cleaning of Metro train carraiages during the COVID-19 pandemic.Credit:Metro Trains

Mr Bollas: "Doesn't matter, they have to be f—ing sprayed, you're not listening. We're paying to f—ing spray them." He added: "You can come up with whatever f—ing excuse you want … "

Mr Bollas said if Mr Haritos was asked if he had performed his task, "the answer was f—ing no".

Mr Haritos responded: "I get the point Peter, but you've got to cover off, you've got to cover up for us as well."

Mr Bollas: "Are you taking the f—ing piss out of me? I've got to cover up, what do you think I do every day George?"

Mr Haritos: "I know you do."

Mr Bollas also reminded Mr Haritos that he was "helping you build a f—ing brand".

Mr Bollas said Metro paid Transclean more than $1 million a month during the COVID-19 pandemic, the inquiry heard.

IBAC has also heard that Mr Bollas tipped Transclean off about surprise audits and, in a discussion with a Transclean associate, arranged for documents that would have been problematic to be removed ahead of a surprise audit carried out during the pandemic.

Metro Trains manager Peter Bollas.

Mr Bollas told the inquiry he would suppress information that was unfavourable to Transclean from senior management and leaked financial information about Metro to the contractor, helping the supplier get an edge over other players.

Mr Bollas also said he was trying to help Transclean win the lucrative stations cleaning contract and potentially take a job at at the company later on.

Mr Bollas said there was no "list of things" he had to perform on Transclean's behalf, but he generally tried to "help them out, make sure they don’t get into trouble … any issues arose, help them with those, get them out of the way … to progress their business."

The hearing continues.

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