Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Questions (175)

Seán Fleming


175. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a verification check of a type in the recommendation in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General has been carried out independently of the assurances of Bus Éireann that the maintenance changes for school transport were being charged in accordance with the 1975 agreement; if not, if an alteration in the maintenance charges for school buses may have led to a previously undisclosed surplus or profit for Bus Éireann since commencement of services for each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52673/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.  In the 2018/2019 school year over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, were transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres at a cost of over €200m in 2018. 

The 1975 Summary of Accounting Arrangements form the basis of the payment to Bus Éireann for the operation of the School Transport Scheme.  In this regard, the Department reimburses Bus Éireann for a range of costs incurred in the operation and administration of the scheme.  Re-imbursement to Bus Éireann is on a cost recovery basis.   

Since the publication of the C&AG report the Department has undertaken a review of the apportionment methodology utilised by Bus Éireann for the School Transport Scheme. An independent expert was appointed to carry out a review of the apportionment methodology for the Transport Management Charge that is paid by the Department to Bus Éireann each year. This report was completed in March 2018 and has provided us with a detailed analysis and classification of costs incorporated into the Transport Management Charge. 

The 1975 Summary of Accounting Arrangements remain as the current arrangements in operation.  On an annual basis Bus Éireann provides the Department with the projected cost of school transport services together with a provisional spread of payments.  These costs are broken down under the headings agreed in the 1975 arrangement which include maintenance costs. 

In terms of maintenance, Bus Éireann vehicles are brought into the garage every six weeks for a full maintenance check.  The maintenance charges for these vehicles are based on identified required works and are allocated on a per vehicle basis.  Bus Éireann report the maintenance costs to the Department on a monthly basis as part of the monthly operational meetings.