The board of the National Consumer
Agency (NCA) and the position of chief executive are to be axed. The response to
the perception of price gouging of consumers during the boom, which was dubbed,
'Rip-off Republic,' became a byword for waste itself.
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and
Innovation Richard Bruton TD said on Tuesday that the NCA will be merged with
the Competition Authority, after the Government gave the go-ahead to the
drafting of the Consumer and Competition Bill based on a draft scheme presented
by the Minister to Cabinet.
The Programme for Government contains a commitment to “rationalise regulators
to strengthen consumer regulation and promote the consumer interest”. Bruton
said hisannouncement represents a significant first step towards the
fulfilment of this commitment. It is expected that the legislation will be
presented to the Oireachtas in the next Dail term.
In keeping with the commitment in the Programme for Government to scrap agency
boards where appropriate, the new Consumer and Competition Authority will not
have a CEO, a chairman or a board and will report directly to the Minister.
Under current legislation, the NCA has CEO, a chairman and a board of 11 people.
This measure will result in savings of approximately €170,000 per year in board
and board-related fees.
Besides the ridiculous situation of
having a ratio of about 1 board member to 2 staff, the small agency itself had a
head who with a bonus was earning more than €200,000 plus pension - - more
than the chairman of the US Federal Reserve.
This 'champion' of the consumer
could spend several hundred thousand euros on public relations but could not
afford even a basic price comparison website.
In May 2008, the then new
taoiseach, Brian Cowen, made waves when the Dáil microphones picked up a brief
conversation with then Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and
Employment Mary Coughlan.
Fine Gael had earlier raised a report in the Sunday Business Post on the big
disparity between what big British retail stores charge for the same items in
Ireland and the UK.
“Bring in those people and get a handle on it,” Cowen instructed Coughlan.
“You know all those fuckers.”