PQs – Parliamentary Questions – One way of getting politicians to tell the truth

The examples of Fine Gael and Labour asking probing questions this week in the form of parliamentary questions have revealed that the National Broadband Scheme is going to be delayed, even more than we knew.

And now we also learn that the winning bidder who will be announced in November (which starts Saturday) is allowed to use satellite as a solution in 8% of the tender. Satellite isn’t broadband but then mobile broadband isn’t either.

Question:

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if areas have been identified under the national broadband scheme as suitable for satellite internet access only; the percentage of the contract covered by this; the areas under the national broadband scheme that have been identified as being suitable for satellite internet access only; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Answer:

Subject to agreement with the chosen service provider, rollout of services is expected to begin shortly after the contract is signed. The chosen service provider will be required to complete the roll out of services within 22 months of the contract award. All requests for a broadband service in the areas to be addressed by the NBS will be met.

The areas already covered by terrestrial broadband service providers will not be included in the NBS. The map showing the areas to be addressed by the NBS is available on my Department’s website www.dcenr.gov.ie and attached for information.

No specific areas have been identified as being suitable for satellite internet access. However, it is expected that some areas will be impossible to reach using terrestrial broadband platforms. The winning service provider will be allowed to serve up to 8% of the buildings in the NBS coverage area using satellite.

And we also learn that the post code system will cost 15 million quid but might never brought about:

Question:

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his policy on postcodes; the cost of implementation; the cost of consultancy on this issue to date; his views on whether the growth of GPS will make postcodes redundant; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Answer:

The report of the board estimates that the cost of implementing, promoting and maintaining the postcode would be approximately €15 million.

A proposal concerning the introduction of postcodes went to Government in May 2007 and Government decided that, prior to the introduction of postcodes, further analysis to quantify the wider economic and societal benefits should be carried out. This analysis was recently updated and it will assist me to decide on how best to take the proposal forward. In this regard I fully accept that a postcode system can convey economic and social benefits, assist future competition in the postal sector and assist delivery of certain public services. I expect to bring a further proposal to Government in relation to the introduction of postcodes.

You can ask your local representatives to table questions and a lot of the time they’ll rephrase them to remove any leeway in the answers.

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9 Responses to “PQs – Parliamentary Questions – One way of getting politicians to tell the truth”

  1. Well, on postcodes, I am pretty confident the group I work with can design a basic system can be designed for around EUR 150,000, which split the country down to ED level. Splitting counties down so there was a code for every street or road segment would cost maybe EUR 750,000 or 1,500,000 more. There is a further job to do if you want to allocate a code to every single house. This is something that certainly needs to be done at some stage, but it’s not critical to do it right at the very beginning in order to enjoy the benefits of a postcode.

    There is more to be spent for a publicity campaign – ads, mailers, small administration centre, contact centre. A lot of the costs and requirements could be met by reallocating existing staff in the civil service, if the resources were made available.

    There is a cost for An Post too, but realistically, the cost is readily recoverable through efficiencies for them, providing the postcode maps directly onto our with their GeoDirectory system (which ours would). An Post desperately needs to find efficiencies, as mail volumes are in decline worldwide.

    So although the costs might come to a total of EUR 15m, that doesn’t mean that that would be the initial cost, or that it would all be external expenditure for the government.

  2. Simon McGarr says:

    I once drafted a PQ. I hadn’t done one before so I just tried to imagine how I’d get out of answering the question and then closed all the loopholes. My TD asked it, but told me afterwards it was the longest PQ he’d ever seen.

  3. I know it is a hassle to link to anything on the oireachtas website, but it really does help when tracking down these things to have some identifying information for the PQ. I think it is also only fair to give the name of the TD who actually asked the PQ. In fairness, it is a bit of work to come up with decent PQ’s. And it is important not to abuse the PQ process. (Some guy once asked how much every department had spent on attache cases in the last two years.)

  4. barry says:

    Apropos, is it just my link that is slow? It took me almost 2.5 mins on a 1Mb link to get the map, just from a click on it….. BB my arse

    Bye, Barry

  5. Colm says:

    The lack of postcodes in Ireland is incredibly annoying when I’m home. It would make services so much more efficient in the long run. Potentially huge ROI though 15mil sounds on the steep side.

  6. Damien says:

    @Anton want me to make your coffee too?

  7. barry says:

    What about a PQ on this….-todays Irish Times…

    “EIRCOM NOW seems destined to change hands for the fifth time in the nine years since its flotation by the State. Literally billions of euro have been pocketed by a series of owners who loaded up the company with debt while investing the bare minimum in the network that forms the backbone of the Republic’s telecommunications infrastructure. Its resulting debts of more than €4 billion mean that Eircom simply no longer has the financial wherewithal to raise the money needed to upgrade its ageing network. It is not a very satisfactory outcome for a State which has pinned a good portion of its hopes on the knowledge economy which takes high speed broadband and advanced telecommunications as a given.”

    Is is any ownder we haven’t got a decent infrastrucure

  8. [...] was recently pointed out by Damien Mulley they are “One way of getting politicians [sic] to tell t… And therefore, they aren’t exactly loved by government ministers, who would naturally enough [...]

  9. garydubh says:

    A no cost Geo Post Coding (PON Code) system has been operating in Ireland under test since June 16th last. It is also has been successfully tested on Garmin SatNavs. Pon Codes can be self determined here: http://www.irishpostcodes.ie