Victoria's regional transport network has sacked its boss and will rip up the contract of its cleaning contractor amid accusations of misconduct and corruption.
V/Line confirmed on Thursday it had severed ties with suspended chief executive James Pinder after he was questioned for two-and-a-half days at the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Operation Esperance hearings.
Mr Pinder is alleged to have pocketed $320,000, including a $100,000 loan for the deposit on his Williamstown home, to further the interests of Transclean.
The company was hired to clean Metro and V/Line trains and performs security work for Yarra Trams.
Mr Pinder denied the accusations and claimed he was in a gambling syndicate with Transclean managing director George Haritos and Metro's fleet manager Peter Bollas.
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In damning tapped phone calls aired on Tuesday, Mr Bollas and Mr Pinder discussed how to approach Mr Haritos for suspected cash kickbacks.
"Tell him like this: 50 ($50,000) each. Done. We're not greedy f***ers," Mr Bollas says in the April 21 call.
Mr Pinder responds: "He always calls it a sprinkle, don't he? 50's good."
In another call between the pair on April 30, Mr Pinder tells Mr Bollas: "You and I will milk this for as long as we can, yeah?"
"We have been hand-feeding him everything for the last four or five years. Everything he's got, he's been delivered it on a plate."
Mr Bollas told the commission on Wednesday he'd never been part of a gambling syndicate and admitted to accepting about $150,000 in cash to "assist and grow" Transclean's business.
The regular payments between $8,000 to $10,000 were from Mr Haritos.
In a conversation between the pair played on Thursday, Mr Bollas accused Transclean of failing to meet its cleaning obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The state is paying you more now, to do more work which you're not doing," Mr Bollas says in a phone call from April 16
Mr Haritos replies: "I am."
"They didn't even f***ing spray the train," Mr Bollas says.
The inquiry heard on Thursday that Mr Bollas would tip off Transclean about "surprise" audits and suppress unfavourable information from Metro's senior management.
V/Line chair Gabrielle Bell announced it had also provided notice to terminate its contract - worth up to $40 million - with Transclean.
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"The alleged conduct of both Mr Pinder and Transclean is not acceptable to V/Line under any circumstances," she said in a statement.
"All V/Line employees and contractors are expected to uphold the highest levels of integrity and the board of directors is committed to ensuring this happens at all times."
V/Line's acting chief executive Gary Liddle will continue to serve in the role until further notice.
Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll was supportive of the decision to terminate the contracts of both Mr Pinder and Transclean.
"The evidence heard at IBAC this week is extremely concerning and that type of conduct will not be tolerated under any circumstances," Mr Carroll said in a statement.
"The government is committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity and we rightly expect the same from our public transport operators."
The hearing continues.
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