Consistent rehabilitation in 2018
For Swiss Post, and for PostBus in particular, 2018 was a challenging year: during the course of an ordinary audit, the Federal Office of Transport (FOT) examined the accounting of services between the PostBus companies within PostBus Switzerland Ltd. As a result, irregularities concerning financial reporting under subsidy law on regional passenger transport procured during the period 2007 to 2015, as well as excessive transfer prices in 2016, were identified. For a number of years, PostBus used irregular accounting practices and, as a result, received excessively high compensatory payments for the provision of its public transport services. To clarify the details of the matter, Swiss Post launched an immediate investigation by independent experts in November 2017. Chairman of the Board of Directors Urs Schwaller subsequently announced that Swiss Post would repay every franc owed to the Confederation and the cantons.
Consequences of the investigation
In June 2018, Swiss Post published the results of the external enquiry report and the independent expert evaluation. Both clearly showed the severity of the unlawful reclassifications at PostBus, how they continued for years and how manipulation took place. As a result, the Board of Directors undertook operational and personnel-related measures which constituted the first step towards a new start. All members of the PostBus Executive Board were dismissed due to a lack of confidence in them. CEO Susanne Ruoff also left the company.
In terms of operations, it was announced that, along with other measures, the reorganization known as IMPRESA will be reversed. This holding structure, adopted in 2014 and introduced on 1 January 2016, was designed to protect profits by setting excessive transfer prices between PostBus subsidiaries. From 2019, IMPRESA will be replaced by a transparent, functional form of organization. In addition, an orderly exit from the passenger transport business in France is being reviewed.
Repayment of amounts owed
Under the auspices of the FOT and together with the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Public Transport (CPT), the amount to be repaid to the Confederation, the cantons and the municipalities was determined over the summer months. In September 2018, Swiss Post announced that PostBus will reimburse the irregular compensatory payments to the Confederation and the cantons in full. In accordance with this objective, PostBus pledged to make repayments amounting to 188.1 million francs, including interest, for the years 2007 to 2018, as well as 17.2 million francs in voluntary repayments for the lapsed contributions in the period prior to 2007.
Under the aegis of the FOT and CPT, PostBus concluded the framework agreement on 14 December 2018. This enabled Swiss Post to transfer the amounts to the cantons and the Confederation. The measures related to the repayments also included a further review by Swiss Post of all figures and the numerous documents on hand. In addition to these checks, Swiss Post asked its employees to report any amendments. As part of this process, it was found that Swiss Post owed a total of 2.9 million francs to seven municipalities. These amounts have also been repaid by Swiss Post.
Further measures on track
By the end of 2018, the further measures initiated were on track: the vacant positions, including the new CEO, had been filled. In June, a decision was also taken by the Board of Directors to change the auditing company for the 2019 financial year. Following the service tender process initiated at that time, EY has acquired the mandate. In addition, the compliance programme on subsidy law announced by Swiss Post will be implemented in 2019. Swiss Post is also continuing to investigate whether it will file claims for liability and damages. Initial decisions regarding this matter are expected in spring 2019.
With the repayments made to the Confederation and the cantons, Swiss Post has honoured its promise to repay every franc owed. For Swiss Post, this was a major milestone in 2018 in terms of fully redressing the events surrounding PostBus, and a fundamental requirement for making a fresh start in 2019.
–November 2017: Indications of irregular accounting practices at PostBus
– February 2018: Communication and appraisal of circumstances and events
– June 2018: Operational and personnel-related consequences of the investigation
– September 2018: Repayment terms and amounts determined in conjunction with FOT and CPT
– December 2018: Repayment agreement concluded with the Confederation and cantons