February 25, 2020

The Editor speaks: OfReg? No. Just off the reg and find the pump


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Colin Wilson

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Office known as OfReg is the most incompetent and useless body ever dreamt up by any government.

One of its main duties is to monitor the prices of fuel. It monitors them alright and give the nod to let the two fuel companies here that have a monopoly and a licence to charge what they feel like. A licence to print money at our expense.

It was disclosed by Opposition Leader, Ezzard Miller, at last Friday’s Finance Committee hearing that

OfReg has recently launched a study to see what colours the territory’s fuel pumps should be!

Have you heard anything so ridiculous?

Especially so when OfReg requested another $1.3 million in supplementary spending!!

What on earth do they spend it on?

Salaries mainly to Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. Who do nothing but attend a few meetings.

MLA Chris Saunders said it well saying, “If we’re paying for something with the objective of lowering costs, and the costs aren’t going down, it means in essence that we’re paying for nothing. The real question, then is, what’s the use? At this point, we should look at closing it down – barring the quality inspections.”

East End MLA, Arden McLean also echoed the call for OfReg to be closed down.

Premier Alden McLaughlin called it “teething issues”. Teething? It’s been a damned great infectious toothache!

Since being consolidated into the bucket without a bottom in January 2017, OfReg managed to run up a $1.5 million operating deficit in 2017. It has spent millions of dollars on travel expenses and consultancy fees and nobody has been held accountable.

Asked what OfReg’s strategy towards fuel costs is the Finance Committee was told it was to allow the market competition determine the prices. As there are only two fuel companies it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that that might allow for a private arrangement. Unfortunately, no rocket scientist was found to advise OfReg of that possibility and it has been left to the garages that dispense the fuel themselves to compete. They start with the price set by the two operators.

OfReg comes to the table with their begging bowl asking for their subsidy from the money tree and they get it, with no promises of dismissals, no new plan of action, no changes to what is failing, etc. Just the premier telling the Committee there was going to be a new CEO, who should be given a chance to assess OfReg’s operations him – or herself before the regulator completely changes its strategy towards the fuels sector.

Him or her? That’s not encouraging either. Obviously no super powered executive with years of experience, can drive on electric power and not gas, has been earmarked.

No time given when this CEO is going to chage the direction of begging bowls every three months or so.

It was a close thing on paper whether the funds would be handed out. A tie. With the casting vote the government’s financial minister and finance Committee chair Roy McTaggart voted in favour of the spending.

How long we will wait for the study to be ready for the difficult job of deciding what colours the territory’s fuel pumps should be? That depends on the committee that was set up to investigate. And the salaries paid to all the members of this committee.

Then there is the nozzles to consider as well as the handles.

I am sure every single petrol station has been asked to take part in the study. I think it should be extended to all the motoring public that fills their vehicles up at the pump. We could even make a game of it.

Find the right pump.

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