Tag Archive - useless quangos

Fine Gael Declares War on Useless Regulators

Eventually Fine Gael were going to come up with a decent idea – and yesterday it was announced that “Kenny declares €50m war against quangos“.

I’ve been pretty critical over the past couple of years about the dozens (and increasing number) of useless government created organisations which are effectively sub-contracted to do the job of the government itself.

According to this article:

OPPOSITION leader Enda Kenny has pledged to cull the huge numbers of Government-created agencies and other bodies, claiming it would save €50m a year.

The Fine Gael leader says there are now 1,000 of these bodies — known as quangos — and says he will abolish dozens of them if his party gets into power.

Our friend, Leo Varadker is apparently going to be publishing a document which will detail the plans, which will include a single Fair Trade Agency for the consumer which would take in both the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority. They are also proposing a consolidation of the many useless transport regulators – the agencies for taxis, aviation, Dublin and regional transport would all be amalgamated into a single national transport agency.

Of course, we should remember that Mr.Varadkers predecessor, the Fine Gael “minister for Rip-off Ireland”, Phil Hogan, called for the creation of a “Consumer Rights Enforcer” – effectively the National Consumer Agency, which they’re now going to get rid of. Are we just playing politics here?

The useless NCA are at it again (or not, if you’re a consumer)

We’re told that we should be encouraged when a powerless regulator like the NPSRA actually does get it’s powers. Because then, apparently, they’ll be able to use those powers to protect consumers – in that case, home buyers and apartment residents for example.

Then people wonder why I’m skeptical about how positive any of these government regulators will actually be for consumers, even when they do get their powers.

Here’s why.

Apart from all my comments here about the National Consumer Agency, the Public Inquiry website today has a fantastic example of just why I think these government organisations are a huge pile of stinking doo doo. And to think, the employees of the NCA are so proud of their inaction in this situation, they’re going on national radio.

Apart from the quotes mentioned about the inaction of the NCA, here’s the most galling comment from their press release today:

The NCA chief also urged consumers to contact the Agency if they had suspicions that their car was clocked. “We will investigate all complaints. The Consumer Protection Act gives us wide ranging powers to take action.

This is truly unbelievable. “Please tell us about companies doing bad things, and we’ll do nothing about it”. Somebody, please, tell me what’s the point in having a regulator such as the NCA at all?

What is the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) for?

The mission statement for NERA is “To achieve a national culture of employment rights compliance”. According to their website, “NERA aims to secure compliance with employment rights legislation and to foster a culture of compliance in Ireland through five main functions – Information, Inspection, Enforcement, Prosecution, and the Protection of Young Persons.

So tell me then why this happened – Angry construction worker climbs crane in Dublin.

The gist of the story is as follows:

  • Paul Hansard (chairman of SIPTU’s Construction Branch in Dublin) worked for a scaffolding sub-contractor that went out of business last month.
  • A new contractor was to take on the contract, and Mr.Hansard would be employed by the new contractor.
  • The main contractor on the project (the new Sean O’Casey Community Centre at St Mary’s Road, East Wall, near Dublin’s Docklands) is Dublin based PJ Hegarty who claims to be “one of Ireland’s leading and most progressive building and civil engineering companies with an annual turnover of circa €330 million and in excess of 700 staff directly employed”. The new sub-contractor is G Mac Scaffolding, which is based in Strabane in Co Tyrone.
  • Mr. Hansard climbed a 52-metre crane on the site because he claimed his new employers were not complying with employment legislation by not paying pension contributions for Irish workers. According to Mr.Hansard, this is a widespread practice in the building sector and contractors are being allowed to get away with it.
  • Mr. Hansard told RTÉ News that it would be completely inappropriate for him as Chairman of SIPTU’s Dublin Construction Branch to work in a non-compliant company. He said he acted out of frustration in climbing up the crane but feared he may be unable to climb back down. Dublin Fire Brigade assisted him down after lunchtime.
So, a union official (presumably knowledgeable of the processes and procedures available to employees) felt that he had no option when it came to a perceived breach of employment law but to climb a crane.

Would it not have been safer for Mr.Hansard to bring this alleged breach to the attention of the National Employment Rights Authority? Is this not what they’re there for? Have we identified yet another useless government regulator?

We’re the ultimate ‘nanny state’

As you’ll probably have gathered from some of the posts here, the issue of the amount and usefulness of our numerous Irish regulators is something that’s of interest to me. So, obviously then, this article – We’re the ultimate ‘nanny state’ – piqued my interest today.

According to the article:

Ireland is among the most heavily-regulated countries in the world and has become the ultimate “nanny state”, according to new research.

We have 267 organisations with statutory powers which overlook every aspect of the economy and how we live our lives, with regulation in more areas than 48 other countries surveyed.

The article goes on to mention how our esteemed Taoiseach started a “Regulate Better” initiative in 2004 which promised to look at how we are regulated in this country:

Despite a 2004 Government paper – Regulate Better – which promised to consider the consolidation of the existing bodies, 13 new agencies have been set up in the last four years.

Obviously, such an initiative isn’t very high on Bertie Aherns priorities – at the moment, nor in the past. Here’s a link to a list of links, some of which contain the ever expanding set of regulators our government is subjecting us to.

NCA Grocery Price Survey – Nothing New

The NCA have launched their new grocery price survey today – their press release is here. The headline of the release is as follows:

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) has published the findings of its survey comparing grocery prices between Ireland’s multiples, symbol groups, discounters and independents shops. Among its main findings, the survey found:

  • Only 35 cent difference between Tesco and Dunnes Stores for basket of 61 branded goods
  • Supervalu providing competition to multiples
  • Real competition between Aldi and Lidl, providing an alternative in value to multiples and Supervalu for own brand products
  • Independent butchers, fruit and vegetable shops can provide real value
Sound familiar? It’s exactly the same as they announced in July 2007 – only this time enhanced by the research done by Value Ireland when we included Lidl and Aldi in the mix.

So, 6 months later, they’re coming out telling us nothing new whatsoever. You can give me their budget of whatever number of million euro per year, and I’ll tell you nothing new either – damn it, I’ll take half their budget and I’ll tell you nothing new every month.

Useless Regulators – Another new one – I’m losing track

Thanks to Tom Raftery for this one. He’s referring to an Irish Independent article – Internet tsar to make children’s surfing safer. A noble aspiration obviously, but as pointed out by Tom, the article has the following statement:

Although it will have no power to fine internet service providers, Mr Lenihan said that he would not hesitate to provide the OIS with “legislative teeth” if necessary.

Another one! A regulator with no power. A talking shop. Jobs for the boys and girls maybe? Combating rising unemployment in Ireland with makey-uppy jobs?

Where will it ever end?

Further comments on the ridiculous NPSRA

Following on from the comment from Serial Complainer previously and my subsequent response, I thought I’d clarify my initial thoughts on the NPSRA and why I think it’s a pointless future useless regulator – one of many created by our current government.

As per my original post, I don’t believe that the proposed involvement of the NPSRA will have any positive impact on the current dodgy situations that exist between developers, property management companies and property management agents.

And regards to the proposal that the NPSRA regulate Auctioneers and Estate Agents and the buying and selling of property, this is just as ridiculous a proposal.

In my opinion, the processes and procedures gone through when buying and selling property are the problem – not the oversight of such processes and procedures.

And if the process stinks, you don’t create an oversight body for the process, you address the process and fix that.

How are the NPSRA going to know if when I’m making a bid for a house that I’m not bidding against a fake bidder created on the other side by the estate agent?

They’ll presumably ask the estate agent, “did you create a fake bidder on the other side in order to boost the price”? And the estate agent will say, “no, of course not, that’s against the rules of my professional organization – I’d never do such a thing”. What happens then? Stalemate? The NPSRA will resolve to “work with” the estate agent, but nothing will happen, and the consumer will still be left on the outside.

It will just be the same as the National Consumer Agency. It will just be the same as the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The NPSRA will become another agency set up with the notional idea that it will benefit consumers, but in reality it’ll just become another part of the governmental anti-consumer bureaucracy.

What can be done? As I mentioned above, we could address the process in buying and selling property rather than overseeing a rotten process?

Can I suggest that we adopt the Scottish model of buying and selling property?

Scotland has a very particular way of buying a home. I’ll post further tomorrow on how this system works.

You’re paying for the NPSRA – to do SFA!

Related to my post below, one or two other points to add about the National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA).

The new useless regulator has:

  • An office in Navan in Meath
  • A Chief Executive Designate
  • A staff of up to 5 people (I believe)
  • A budget of €0.5m (or €1m according to here)

The new useless regulator does not have:

  • Any power whatsoever to do absolutely anything

Another useless Irish regulator on its way – lucky us!

I was prompted to this post by an e-mail from Gavin on Friday evening, and before weekend coverage of the same topic. The Irish Times on Friday had a couple of articles regarding the problems that apartment residents are having with property management companies and property management agents (sub required, but available here, here, here and here).

I’ve already commented about property management companies on this site and how the currently useless Irish regulator who’s empowered to act won’t actually do so – preferring to “work with them”.

So, the Irish Government response to the Irish problem is to set up another useless regulator, the National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA), to specifically regulate, amongst other things, property management agents – not the property management companies.

A quote from one of the articles above goes as follows:

The NCA is hopeful that the establishment of the National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA) will be a “big consumer win”, as it will eventually regulate management agents. “It’s going to greatly assist improving the quality of service that is offered by management agents, and therefore improve the experience of people living in multi-unit developments whose management companies have contracts with recognised and registered management agents,” says Hurley.

Apart from the unnerving fact that the National Consumer Agency is sticking its oar in in this area as well, I don’t believe it’s the management agents that are the problem – well, directly anyway.

The NCA and ODCE are keen to tell us that we don’t really understand the differences between property management agents and companies (cause we’re all stupid consumers and need useless regulators to save us from ourselves), yet by encouraging and supporting the setting up of this new useless regulator by the Government they’re showing us that they all really don’t have any clue of what’s going at all.

The primary problem, as per the articles above, is that residents don’t have control of their own property management companies in order to be able to control their own destiny with regards to where they live. Developers find ways, for whatever reason, to keep control of the property management companies, and in most situations appoint connected companies as the property management agents- keeping it in the family if you like.

Because the property management agents then know that because of the connections with the developers, and therefore with the property management companies, they don’t actually have to provide any value for money, or in some cases, even provide a service. They know that no matter what they do or don’t do, or how dissatisfied the residents are, they’ll always be reappointed.

However, if the ODCE, the NCA, and the already useless and irrelevant before it begins National Property Services Regulatory Authority (NPSRA) actually addressed the situation that allows developers maintain their place as directors of property management companies with block voting enough to always override the residents in all decisions, then we’d end up in a better situation.

In such a scenario, the residents can take control of their own property management companies, and then can appoint their own property management agents – ones that they know will provide a quality service, and value for money, and will actually be accountable to the residents who live there, and not the developers who don’t.

NCA – can’t be arsed doing their jobs?

Back in July last year, we had some fun with the National Consumer Agency over their grocery price survey which excluded Aldi and Lidl. I was reminded this today by an article by Ian Kehoe in the Sunday Business Post, Focus on €14bn grocery trade.

A quote from the article goes as follows:

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) recently published a pilot study which found little difference in prices between the main supermarket chains. The agency described the similarity in prices as ‘‘worrying’’.


The NCA is currently carrying out a more comprehensive study on the issue, and is also investigating why customers pay more in supermarkets in the Republic than in the North or England. An NCA spokesman said the report would be published in the coming months.

Recently mind you is over 6 months ago. As far as I can tell from here, inflation in food prices is approaching 4% since then.

And when they originally did their survey, the comment at the time was as follows:

The survey is the first tranche of research into grocery prices carried out by the NCA and a further survey will take place towards the end of the year which will include non-branded goods available in multiple and symbol group retailers.

So, the NCA are using 6 month old research calling it “recent” and when they said they were going to do an updated survey, they still haven’t done it – over 2 months late as we stand now. In fairness, how hard can it be to go out and buy a few things in the supermarket?

What do these people do again? Look after the interests of Irish consumers? Exactly how?

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