Water, water, everywhere…

There is a lot I could say about Irish Water. I will quite probably write in some depth in the very near future about the topic.  But one thing really jumped out at me in the coverage and analysis pieces on last Saturday’s protests.

One of the reason we must have Irish Water, we are told, is that the infrastructure is leaking. 40% of our water, apparently, leaks straight into the ground.  “This must be fixed!”, we are rightly told.

Irish Water have therefore budgeted the princely sum of €51 million to deal with leaks. Until the end of 2016.

Irish Water has already spent €50 million on consultants.

How to save €300 million: an aside

I’m not even going to mention the “Let’s get multinationals to actually pay something approaching 12.5% Corporation Tax on profits” thing, because there’s your €300m right there – and, in fact, the billion you need to save by 2015! –  and that’d make the series very short indeed.

Incidentally – how is it that a corporation can manage to be non-resident anywhere for tax purposes?

Is Apple really just a giant L. Ron Hubbard-esque Sea Org at this point?

Cake! I want it! To eat, and to have!

Mark Fielding, the not-sexist and not-stupid-I-just-said-something-stupid CEO of ISME, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises trade association, was on The Last Word on Wednesday.

There, he debated with Derek Mullen of the Civil and Public Service Union about public service paycuts.  Our Mark was firmly in favour.  All of the usual arguments.

But.

On Friday, our Mark was in the Irish Times.  ‘Shockingly poor’ retail sales dampen hopes of recovery on high street”, said the headline. Our Mark said:

 “The tsunami of negative influences on the retail trade continues, with increases in bank charges and reduction in bank lending, increases in local charges with a reduction in local services, while Government empty announcements mirror the empty shops.”

“It is as if this administration has a death-wish for retail and the 240,000 people depending on the sector for their livelihood”.

Right.  Now how much poorer are retail sales going to be if you take out another €300 million from the economy?  By the end of this year?

I’ll tell you something, Mark. If the government manage to do so, I’ll be spending far less in your members’ shops…

#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…