Bye Bye to the CAI (Consumers Association of Ireland)

Last weekend, I delivered my letter of resignation from the Executive and Council of the Consumers Association of Ireland to the Chairman (James Doorley), Chief Executive (Dermott Jewell) and to my fellow Council members.

In my letter of resignation, I communicated my two key reasons for leaving which I will return to here in a future post.

Update 1: Since I originally composed this post, two more directors have resigned from the Consumers Association of Ireland. That’s 20% of the Associations Council (or one third of the Executive) resigning before even the first Coucil meeting of the new term.

Update 2: Paul Cullen, the Irish Times Consumer Affairs Correspondent, has covered the 3 resignations from the CAI in Saturdays edition – click here to read more. You can see some of the reasons for the resignations there, but I will return to this again soon also.

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15 Responses to Bye Bye to the CAI (Consumers Association of Ireland)

  1. Maura November 22, 2008 at 14:25 #

    Read the Irish Times piece. If CAI membership has dropped so much why is the Dept of Enterprise giving them a grant when clearly consumers dont find CAI so relevant?
    isn’t CAI a charity? Surely there’s an issue here about keeping fees personally. Over 50,000 in fees is a lot. Its bigger than the loss for the year Paul Cullen gives in his article.

  2. Ciaran November 22, 2008 at 17:14 #

    The council kept over €50,000 for representing the assocation but allow the association to make a loss of €41,000?

    Is this an annual stipend for them or are they expense claims?

  3. Ciaran November 22, 2008 at 17:15 #

    As Maura said, isn’t the CAI a charity? Sounds dodgy to me.

    Is Bertie in charge of their accounts?

  4. Padraig November 22, 2008 at 17:31 #

    The consumers assn website says in the Chief executive’s report that the ‘council members act as lobbyists and spokespersons in their various areas of expertise. It is especially noteworthy that they give voluntarily of their time and expertise.’

    This doesn’t square with the Times saying Council members are keeping fees for representing CAI on different bodies.

    Maybe the Times meant expenses? Even the Times can get things wrong.

    People are entitled to their out of pocket expenses. But over €50,000 in a year would be a lot of expenses. Most of the bodies listed on the website are Irish ones so the expenses shouldn’t be that high. There are a few EU ones. maybe these council members won’t use Ryanair (cant blame them for that) and thats put up the expenses.

  5. Ian November 22, 2008 at 19:58 #

    The money the directors have been trousering is almost as much as the government grant!

  6. serialcomplainer November 22, 2008 at 20:52 #

    Your resignation was a good move. The CAI is effectively a publisher, and has been so for many years. Hopefully the media will stop running to Mr Jewell for the standard whinge-response to every price increase now.

  7. Tom November 23, 2008 at 03:51 #

    I know some people that won’t give to charity on point of principle.

    It’s stories like this that make you realise why…..

  8. professional cynic November 23, 2008 at 15:01 #

    My mother always said charity begins at home. They go to all these probably boring meetings about regulating this and that – and they keep the dosh personally. Good luck to them.

    Padraig says the website mentions the Council members voluntary work.

    So they ‘volunteer’ to keep the fees. This saves CAI accounting work surely?

  9. Paul November 23, 2008 at 17:51 #

    I read the piece in the Times yesterday and was visiting my granny today and I saw a pile of Consumer Choices in her living room. Dont know what good they do her as she’s 80 and her sight is going. Anyway I found the CAI accounts in the Oct issue. Interesting. It saya the CEO keeps €30,349 representation fees. It lists the council members who keep the fees. The two main fee keepers are a Michael Kilcoyne €14,000 – he also gets €6994 expenses, and Ann Woods who keeps €7000 fees.It refers you to the cai website to get details of the organisations which pay fees to the CEO and to the council members. Bord Bia seems to be paying a lot of these fees as it has 3 CAI reps on different boards.
    CAI also appears to have put up salaries by 24% having 8 employees this year and last year. Not a prudent move for an organisation that lost €41,867 per the accounts. Per the staff list on the inside front cover they have 2 editors but no accountant. Odd?

  10. valueireland November 23, 2008 at 21:19 #

    Many thanks to all of you for your comments so far.

    @Maura and @Ciaran – You are correct – the CAI is a registered charity, but my understanding is that this is primarily to do with VAT status rather than accepting charitable contributions.

    @Ciaran and @Padraig – The numbers quoted in the Irish Times article are fees only. The numbers do not include any expenses received by the same people who are getting the fees.

    @Ian – You are correct, but more frustrating was the fact that the fees received were more than the loss made by the Association.

    @serialcomplainer – The publishing focus was raised at the AGM recently where it was suggested that they reduce publication frequency to quarterly for example, and use the money elsewhere for consumer advocacy purposes. The proposal was rejected by the Chairman.
    It was the sound-bite producing capacity of the Association that I had hoped to have changed, but this was deemed necessary to increase the profile of the Association to get more members. Unsuccessfully obviously.

    @Tom – I don’t believe that it is possible to “give” to this charity other than by buying the 12 magazines for €96 for the year.

    @professional cynic – You should always listen to your mother. From my perspective, if CAI representatives are attending boring meetings on behalf of consumers, surely they should be telling consumers about them. If the Consumer Panel at the Financial Regulator or the Taxi Regulator panel, or the Bord Bia Consumer Foods Board are holding boring meetings which are being held to give the appearance that they’re considering consumer concerns when they’re actually not, then we consumers should know about that.
    If these meetings are boring and not doing anything positive for consumers then the CAI representatives should withdraw from membership of these boards and panels and not give them the pseudo-legitimacy by having the CAI involved.
    I’d like to say that I know what happens at these meetings, but my efforts during 2008 to get reports back from these meetings were ignored.
    Obviously, I could almost endorse your comment regarding saving accounting work (and presumably money) by not providing the fees back to the Association, but given that the fees declared as received for the accounting year concerned exceeded the loss made by €9,000 – it’d hardly cost that to include this money in the accounts.

    @Paul – I think your comment is a perfect example of why the CAI still has the circa 5k members that it still has – inertia on the part of many members who just haven’t bothered, or haven’t gotten around to canceling their membership.
    Regarding An Bord Bia, like you, I’d wonder what that government quango actually does to necessitate the need for three CAI representatives, costing them not a little amount of money over the past 8-10 years.
    Regarding your other point, the accounts are prepared internally.

  11. Dissenter - Pro CAI November 23, 2008 at 23:15 #

    I work in the charity sector/ngo sector and people are usually very poorly paid. The Wheel which is a coordinating organisation for such bodies did a salaries survey in June 2008. For CEOs of charities/ngos of the size/turnover of the CAI the average salary was just under €60,000. So when Paul says CAI accounts show the CAI guy keeping 30,000 in fees it tells me that his salary is low and his Board allow him to keep the fees to make up his salary to a fair figure. Whats wrong with that?

    You have the same expenses whether you work for good causes or in the private sector. NGOs lose staff because they cant manage on the lousy pay. Getting regular funding is a problem. You exist from year to year and dont know what you will get next year or when it will come through.
    as for keeping fees I know people who give a lot of time to committees and when they are self employed for example they lose income. Or they may have to take annual leave to attend if they have a job. If they lose income then its fair that they keep the fees. The 2 people Paul mentioned getting fees are probably self employed. He shouldn’t attack them without knowing the FULL facts.

  12. valueireland November 23, 2008 at 23:27 #

    @Dissenter – Pro CAI – Thank you for your comments. I’m familiar with the Wheel survey that you mention. Your assumptions are based on the output of that survey, but as you say about Paul Cullen, you should be aware of the FULL facts of the situation in question before coming to any conclusions.
    I accept that all your comments with regards to NGO’s are valid, but without full facts, you cannot easily assume that the same situation applies to the CAI.
    Additionally, a simple Google search would show you the occupations of the people mentioned by the way.

  13. Paul November 24, 2008 at 00:06 #

    Dissenter-pro CAI is a bit naive. You (Value Ireland) have sort of put her straight. He/she was referring to me Paul (I posted a comment) rather than Paul Cullen the journalist.

    You get some people working in NGos/charities or serving on their boards who are anything but idealistic. They’re self serving with their own agendas. And because generally the people they’re working with are very decent and often quite naive, its easy for these self servers to work the system for themselves, get any fees and expenses going, and fool their idealistic colleagues.
    ‘Dissenter’ is probably one of these nice people who belives the best of everybody.

    I did a google search just now. Michael Kilcoyne who kept €14,000 fees appears to be an Independent councillor from mayo and also a senior SIPTU official for that area – or there is a young man on facebook with that name.

    Assuming its the union official, why is he keeping the fees when he has presumably a very good salary from SIPTU? Does SIPTU know? he also had a lot of espenses – so he must be coming to Dublin a lot for meetings? how does look after his members especially now when jobs are under threat?

    Googled Ann Woods but it only told me she is connected with CAI. Does anyone know who she is/what she does?

    Value Ireland – looking forward to reading your promised posts on just why you resigned from CAI

    Will wait to read before deciding to advise granny to cancel her subscription.

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