Regulator investigates big build fraud allegations

·2-min read
Scott McNaughton/AAP PHOTOS

The rail safety regulator is investigating allegations of fraud by labour hire companies involved in Victoria's big build projects.

Project managers on the Metro Tunnel and level-crossings removal program have been billed for up to three shifts reportedly performed by one worker in a 24-hour period, the Herald Sun reported on Friday.

The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) confirmed it was investigating the allegations.

"ONRSR is aware of allegations relating to fraudulent practices by labour hire companies contracted to major projects and railway operations in Melbourne," a spokesman told AAP.

"These allegations are currently the subject of an ONRSR investigation, with the focus of our activities being on safety matters."

The regulator could not comment on specifics while the investigation was ongoing but the spokesman noted labour hire companies had safety duties under Australia's Rail Safety National Law.

"Should any breach of (the law) be identified, ONRSR has at its disposal a full range of enforcement powers," the spokesman said.

"These include the ability to undertake legal proceedings and the provision to prohibit unsafe operations."

The regulator is probing claims of underpaid allowances to workers among the allegations, along with claims of "ghost shifts" where shifts were not filled despite workers being rostered on.

Metro Trains was also reviewing the allegations, a spokeswoman said.

"Metro has zero tolerance for actions that do not meet the required standard," she said.

Industry Minister Ben Carroll said the government was taking the allegations seriously.

"We expect the highest standards particularly around safety, which is of the utmost importance for workers as well as commuters and other people that will be using these projects," he said on Friday.

Premier Daniel Andrews disputed claims the issue involved more than one major project and warned against blanket criticism of the tens of thousands of workers who were doing quality work.

"We expect that everybody involved in every project, large and small, is doing the right thing," he said.

"If they're not, then they will be dealt with, and the consequences will be very, very significant for them in terms of all manner of penalties.

"Also, they're not companies ...that we would want involved in any of our building activities in the future, so let's wait and see how those inquiries go ... and we'll be able to report progress when that work is finished."

Mr Andrews said he believed it was an isolated incident and the government had a process to contact contractors and make sure they were getting value for everybody.

Opposition Leader John Pesutto told the Liberals at a post-budget lunch on Friday he would write to police and call for them to investigate allegations labour hire companies were using fraudulent invoices.