#1 in an occasional series

To read the Sunday Independent or listen to Leo Varadkar or James Reilly, you’d be forgiven for believing that everyone in the public sector was either lazy, incompetent, inefficient, dishonest, malingering, thieving or some combination of all of the above.

Except, of course, for the people appointed by the likes of, well, Leo and James, who totally deserve their cap-breaching salaries.  You pay peanuts, you get monkeys, after all. Overspend by €200 million in the HSE this year to date, though, and obviously that’s not the fault of senior management – we should cut pay and allowances instead.  It’s crazy in this day and age paying someone an “unsocial hours” allowance… they can, of course, still get public transport and find a free childcare place for their offspring, when they’re scheduled for the nightshift…

But I digress.

The main point of this post is supposed to be about how “woeful” the public service is, compared to how amazing the private sector is, and wouldn’t everything be great if only the public sector was more like the private…

Except…

Case for consideration #1 in an occasional series.

I want to buy a piece of equipment.  It must be able to a certain job, in a certain way, and in a certain time.  I set out the requirements for this piece of equipment very clearly.  I go to three different private sector companies.

Company A comes back proposing Solution A, at medium price.
Company B comes back proposing Solution B, at cheapest price.  And adds on what I would call an outrageous price to install Solution B.  However, they’re still cheaper than Company A.
Company C also proposes Solution B.  They also charge an outrageous price to install – in this case, making them almost double the price of Company B.  The total price is so unrealistic that they’ve priced themselves out of the market – but spent money doing so, because their proposal was a few hours’ work, at least, rather than if they felt so uninclined to do business, just telling us that.

So, unsurprisingly, we go with Company B.  We place an order in late May.  By mid-June, we have not had the solution delivered, and nor have we heard anything about delivery dates.  So we phone them.  They tell us that they just need written confirmation from the manufacturer that Solution B can do what we want.  Wait a second – didn’t you just write to us a couple of weeks ago, saying “This can do what you want!”?

Another couple of weeks pass.  We get in touch again.  We apparently won’t be able to get Solution B now for another 5 to 6 weeks, by which time it will be able to do what we were told it would be able to do, back in May.

Company B have essentially lied to us.  Or, at best, they have been economical with the truth, or incompetent.  Company C, likewise.  Company A – well, what they’re selling is too expensive compared to Company B to justify telling Company B to go take a hike.  Assuming we do actually get the solution delivered in August, and that it does what we were told it says on the tin.

What’s really annoying about this is that Company B could have said from the outset that they were proposing a solution that wouldn’t be available straight away.  They knew our circumstances, and we didn’t specify “Must be installed immediately!”  But – y’know, not being told there’d be a delay, we scheduled other stuff around this…

So yeah.  Moral of the story – the private sector is not the all-singing, all-dancing wonder child it’s made out to be. Sometimes it’s just as lazy, incompetent, inefficient, dishonest, malingering, thieving or some combination of all of the above as the public sector…

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