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A Metro Trains manager asked the head of a contracted cleaning company for "a little bit of honey" in exchange for information about upcoming COVID-19 cleaning work, an anti-corruption inquiry has heard.
An intercepted phone call played to Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission hearings on Friday captures Metro Trains' former operational fleet manager Peter Bollas telling Transclean boss George Haritos about a new taxpayer-funded cleaning program that would be rolled out during the pandemic.
On the call on July 16, Mr Bollas can be heard coaching Mr Haritos on how he should price the work and tipping him off about a surprise audit that night that would be carried out by an external auditor.
Mr Bollas tells Mr Haritos that Transclean employee Steve Kyritsis should be ready for the upcoming audit.
"I just want a little bit of honey, not much," Mr Bollas told Mr Haritos.
Mr Haritos: "Not honey, sprinkles."
When pressed about what Mr Bollas was referring to when he asked for "honey", Mr Haritos told IBAC he was probably "joking" and he wasn't sure what Mr Bollas meant. "It could've meant a hundred things," Mr Haritos said, suggesting it could refer to "honey", a "handout" or "the first man to Mars".
Mr Haritos said he has not paid Mr Bollas any cash. "Categorically, I can say I never made a cash payment to Mr Bollas. Mr Bollas never asked me for a payment," he told IBAC.
The anti-corruption watchdog is investigating serious alleged corruption within Victoria's railways that involve one of the most senior transport bureaucrats — V/Line's chief executive — allegedly pocketing cash bribes from a cleaning contractor.
V/Line's sacked boss James Pinder allegedly received an additional $320,000 in funds from Transclean and associated entities which he put towards his $2.5 million Williamstown house, months after granting the company a contract with V/Line worth up to $40 million.
Mr Pinder said the cash was winnings from a legal gambling syndicate and the $320,000 was a loan.
Metro sacked Mr Bollas last week, after Mr Bollas admitted he pocketed cash payments from Transclean in exchange for favourable treatment.
Another intercepted phone call played to the hearings on Friday captured Mr Haritos and Transclean employee and nephew, Mr Kyritsis, discussing how they had "dodged a bullet" during an audit on August 16.
Mr Kyritsis said the auditor was "thorough" but "I don't think he picked up on anything, all the paperwork was spot-on ... processes were good ... we're all in the clear."
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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