Sunday, 30 June 2013

The cost of spending an Irish penny

Yesterday I discussed the case of the missing artworks from Leinster House. Today, provides another opportunity to discuss the big issues of Irish procurement, 'how much should it cost to spend a penny in Ennis?'.

This first caught my attention when I read a piece in the hard copy of the Sunday Independent "Two public toilets cost £1.4m a year" - surprisingly I couldn't find a copy of the 'News in Brief' piece online.

However, I gradually began flush out the facts. First, it seems that the report has 'misreported in that it should be £140k as opposed to £1.4m. It can be assumed that had the council made such an error they would have been considered incompetent.

But toilets in Ennis are a serious issue - only a few months ago it was alleged the toilets has become the residence of two homeless persons, one of whom sadly died. Another big issue is the failure to use the toilets and urinating in public - the solution to that is argued to be the appointment of a 'urine warden' and 'naming and shaming' the offenders. I suppose the next stage will be a debate whether or not pictures will be published and, if so, would that represent an infringement of human rights.

However, the toilets in question appear to be 'superloos' with automatic door opening after 20 mins and have alarms fitted, the contractor makes daily inspections.The public pay for the 'convenience' through a 25c fee but that only amounts to a revenue of €3,158 a year against with the contractor paid €70k for each toilet. Only 34 people, on average appear to use the two toilets each day.

The Sunday Independent piece suggested that a councillor wants a renegotiation of the contract but are there other options?


  • Increase the cost of spending a penny from 25c to €1, as already advocated by some;
  • Reduce from two toilets to one;
  • Close the toilets during the day and insist that those who need to spend a penny do so in local public houses, then only open the toilets during the night;
  • Allow members of the public to use toilets in any of the council offices, which I assume have manned security;
  • Relocate the toilets to a more 'convenient' place so that usage increases;
  • Have the toilets sponsored by local traders;
  • As Ireland's only Information Age Town' could mobile apps be used as tools for marketing business which will let members of the public use their 'facilities' and act as a means for drawing those caught short;
  • As an Information Age Town ask the public to come up with a solution;
The challenges facing public procurement in Ireland seem to go beyond taking the cents.

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