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Can someone tell Dan White at the Herald that the NCA is going away?

Dan White of the Evening Herald wrote yesterday evening about the fact that Ann Fitzgerald has declined to accept her bonus, thought to be €37,000 – 20% of her €186,000 salary. In his article, I can’t for life of me understand why this woman on the left was being given a bonus of €37,000, Mr. White channels ValueIreland in his commentary on the usefulness of the National Consumer Agency, headed by Ms. Fitzgerald.

Some of Mr. Whites comments are as follows:

With public anger at Ireland’s sky-high prices at boiling point, the Government had to be seen to be “doing something”.

That something was the NCA, a worthy talking shop which, apart from occasionally producing useful cross-border price comparison surveys, did nothing to address the problems it was supposed to solve.

He does go on to say that Eddie Hobbs “quit the NCA board in frustration a while back”. Strictly speaking, this is incorrect as Mr. Hobbs left the board because of his frustrations with Celia Larkin rather than the NCA itself. It should be remembered that despite this posturing from Mr. Hobbs, he did offer to rejoin the board if the then minister, Ms. Coughlan, reappointed him.

Back to Dan White, and his article.

Last year, Ann Fitzgerald was supposed to get a bonus of €25,000, prompting me to post the question – Value for Money – Ann Fitzgerald of the National Consumer Agency?

And here we are, a year or so later, and a couple of more shopping surveys in the bag, and Ms. Fitzgerald is deemed to be worth an extra €12,000 compared to last year in bonus payments.

At a time when people left right and centre are taking pay cuts, cessation of bonus payments, pension levies and any other manner of payment cuts, Ms. Fitzgerald is somehow deemed to be worth an extra €12,000.

Because she’s worth it I suppose.

Well, she is heading up an organisation deemed so important that it’s going to be merged into the Competition Authority soon enough rather than be left as a standalone entity. This was announced as part of a recent budget cull on quangos – one of the few to be culled.

Probably not a problem for Ms. Fitzgerald as I’m guessing that she’s going to be appointed it’s new head honcho since Bill Prasifka, formerly of the TCA, has moved to become the Financial Services Ombudsman.

Maybe someone should have told Dan White that the NCA is going away though – maybe he wouldn’t have written this final paragraph in his article:

While the Government has so far shrunk from grasping the nettle, it is surely only a matter of time before this Government or its successor tackles the enormous number of quangos, most of which seem to serve no other purpose than to consume tens of millions of taxpayers’ euro.

In any such quango cull the NCA would be a prime target. Now that the market has achieved what it was supposed to do, what is the point of the NCA?

While Fitzgerald’s decision may have bought the NCA some time, the questions about its role and usefulness remain unanswered. Far better to scrap not just the NCA but also all of the other quangos and their automatic “performance bonuses” as well.

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