The Road to Eircode
1. The postcode process began with consultation in 2003…12 years ago!
2. In 2005 a National Postcode Project Board was established to manage the project.
3. Noel Dempsey set the 1st Jan 2008 as the first postcode implementation deadline – missed now by over 7 years!
4. Former Minister Eamon Ryan set multiple postcode deadlines none of which were met and is now criticizing the current design of Eircode
5. Former Minister Pat Rabbitte set multiple deadlines all of which were missed. He was unable to see any part of the postcode implemented as a result of his early retirement!
6. From 2003 onwards An Post repeatedly stated that it did not need a postcode, it saw a postcode as a “20th century solution to a 21st century problem”!
7. Over the period 2005 – 2010 many consultants’ reports were prepared on postcodes and specifically the ABC 123 proposal which was never delivered.
They are listed here: http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Communications/Postal/Postcodes.htm
8. In these reports, the idea of a postcode that defined an individual property was discounted as a result of the Data Commissioner’s input.
9. In these reports An Post quoted figures of between €27 and €37 million as the cost of them fully adopting a postcode which they said would give them very little benefit!
10. Former Minister Eamon Ryan is famously quoted on the record of the Dáil as stating that his Department had developed something better than GPS to be used as a postcode!
11. In July 2010, as a result of multiple missed deadlines on behalf of Government, Loc8 Code was launched;- making a unique Digital Address Code (a modern alternative to a postcode) available to the Irish public. Loc8 Code has been successfully available since then and is used by State Agencies and the Emergency services as well as logistics services and the wider public. It is FREE to use and is a cross border 32 county solution. Loc8 Code is NOT limited to just letterboxes and does NOT need access to a database to use.
12. In Oct 2010 Former Minister Eamon Ryan was criticised for awarding a tender to oversee selection of a postcode contractor and postcode implementation to PA consulting who had provided many of the related previous consultancy reports. This tender had to be run twice as the first attempt was cancelled for “technical reasons”!
13. The PA contract was to run for 18 months to mid-2012 when postcodes should have been implemented;- this was never achieved and PA were still paid nearly €1 million.
14. No figures for consultancy or the work of postcode project board for the period 2003-2011 have been released.
15. A postcode tender started in Jan 2011 to award a 10 year contract to a new postcode license holder under PA’s management. The postcode was to be a postal model with postal district and postal route “blockface” area (ABC 123), covering up to 50 properties in one postcode as per the consultancy reports (see link above to DCENR website)
16. The above tender was rushed in just before the Government fell in Feb 2011 and former Minister Pat Rabbitte inherited it.
17. This tender was due to be completed in Aug 2011 – it was completed over 2 years late in Oct 2013! It should be noted that 3 companies were shortlisted, Capita PLC/Bearing Point, An Post and Landmark UK. Landmark UK mysteriously withdrew from the tender without making a final offer. In February 2015 announced a major contract from Capita Insurance Services a wholly owned subsidiary of Capita PLC to map flood prone areas in the UK.
18. The tender required all participants to have a €40 million turnover and this was challenged as well as other terms in early 2011 by one company but without redress.
19. In May 2013 Loc8 Code offered its code, which was in operation since 2010, to the State for free. This was not considered.
20. The original purpose of a postcode was to level the playing field on addresses for postal competitors in liberalised postal market. Over 750,000 houses and 100,000 businesses in Ireland have non unique addresses. But during the extended nearly 3 year postcode tender process, the focus changed to applying a unique identifier on all properties for LPT, Water Charges and Broadcast Charge and to ensure An Post would let a postcode happen.
21. The postcode that was announced in Oct 2013 did not conform to the tender specifications, consultants’ reports or data commissioner’s requirements.
22. The code will be for “letterboxes” meaning that locations to which mail is not delivered will not have a postcode. Many buildings in business, education, sporting and accommodation campuses do not have letterboxes! Many delivery, emergency and service destinations in Ireland do not have letterboxes and therefore they will not have a postcode either.
23. The last 4 characters of the postcode are to be random with the result that:
a. Neighbours’ postcodes will have nothing in common at local level
b. A database will be required at all times to interpret any useful element of the postcode at a cost to commercial users. It will only be by reference to this database will the exact location of the postcode be known. Using a mainly random code means that the locality cannot be learned or iterated!
c. Usage on navigation devices will be dependent on whether manufacturers/developers will take the cost of using the postcode;-because the Irish market is small there is no guarantee of this. Garmin and TomTom already have gone in different directions using next generation solutions which are not dependent on any databases.
d. The random code will mean high costs to validate the code in business systems
e. The random code will mean many errors in public use
f. The random code will render the code of little use for Public Safety and the emergency services.
g. The random code will mean that members of the public will not be able to understand basic information about a properties location and proximity by looking at it alone.
24. The postcode consortium is headed by Capita but also includes:
a. Bearing Point
c. Tico Group
d. An Post
25. Both Tico Group and An Post were involved in the National Postcode project Board advising DCENR;- a matter over which there may be a legal challenge. This was the subject of an article alleging a conflict of interest in the SBP in Nov 2012
26. An investigation into the Postcode procurement process was undertaken by the EU procurement Unit. This investigation revealed 3 possible breaches of EU/Irish best practice and legislation. To date Ministers a& officials of the Department of Communications have repeatedly denied these findings even though they are in publicly available documents.
27. The Minister has stated that the proposed code will be optional to use so it may not become popularly used.
28. The postcode tender was awarded apparently without the postcode design being agreed, after 30 months of collaborative tender when the technical detail was supposed to have been agreed! It turns out that the detail of the postcode (named Eircode in April 2014) were actually dictated by An Post and agreed by Capita in early 2014. Most notably An Post said it did not need a rational or visually useful code and that the postal areas the routing key element of the code defines will not be current postal areas but ambiguous future ones that have no defined extents. These features mean that Eircode is of little use to An Post itself and make it cumbersome and expensive for couriers, emergency services, tourists, the general public and others to use.
29. A further tender was started on 23rd December 2013 to select further consultants to assist with the postcode design and implementation – one specified role being:
to ”Oversee the postcode and postcode address database ( PAD) design to ensure it is fit for purpose”
These consultants were quietly appointed in April 2014. They were PA Consultants who were appointed to check on their own work. They have never declared Eircode fit for purpose!
32. There is no National Address Agency proposed – such an independent agency would be essential to oversee how addresses and postcodes would be managed, created and used;- especially for Public Safety.
33. The total cost of the postcode is quoted as €26.5 million. This is NOT actually the case:
a. If An Post were to adjust their technology to use the code then from their own figures (in consultants reports- see link to DCENR website above) the cost would be between €27-€37 million.
i. Mail business is declining and loss making
ii. Post Offices are being closed
iii. The postcode will be optional so An Post will have to work the current system as well as the new postcode system, resulting in extra cost and complication
iv. An Post have stated that the postcode will be of little benefit
v. An Post is the only company penalised if mail is not delivered by COMREG on time.
b. Consultants costs so far have not been included in the cost quoted:
i. PA 2011-2013 – €1million
ii. PA and others – 2003-2011 – Unknown – estimated €1milliom
iii. New consultants April 2014 – 2016 – not known – estimated €1million
iv. There will be a cost to businesses and non-core Government agencies (LPT, Water Charges, Broadcast tax) in adopting postcodes. Emeregency Services, Banks, Local Authorities, Logistics & Courier Companies, Utilities, small businesses, health services and the wider economy: – cost estimated to be over €70million
34. In May 2015, Capita issued sample data for Eircode but only Government agencies were allowed access to sample Eircodes and routing keys. Irish Businesses who will pay most for Eircode got sample data with blank spaces where Eircodes should be.
35. In May 2015, Loc8 Code accused Minister White of deliverable mislead the Oireachtas and the Public regarding the adverse outcomes of the EC investigation in Eircode
36. In June 2015, Minister White told the Dail that the EC investigation found nothing and there was no follow-up. This was not the facts as verifiably published in the public domain.
37. In June 2015, the Freight Transport Association of Ireland who previously had made it clear they will not use Eircode, accused officials of the Department of Communications of “pedaling untruths” in the Oireachtas hearings on postcodes.
38. By June 2015, Eircode and the consortium delivering it had missed every deadline set for it
39. In June 2015, it became clear that An Post would not be able to use an Eircode to deliver notice of a property’s own Eircode to it. This would be a problem for those properties with non-unique and ambiguous addresses – up to 1m properties and this highlighted that An Post could not use Eircodes in its normal delivery operation. It emerged that personal names would have to be added to the notifications to allow them be delivered and this required special legislation to be passed by the Oireachtas. In that legislation for the first time ever, An Post is to be given the authority to maintain and use a database of personal information of property occupiers with their addresses. The extent of the personal information was not defined but it may well include more than just names.
39. In June 2015, members of the Eircode consortium including Mr. Alex Pigot & Capita announce plans to introduce GoCode an Eircode alternative even before Eircode itself is introduced. It should be noted that Mr. Alex Pigot was a government appointee to the original Postcode Working Group/Board and lead the Capita winning bid.
40. A Comptroller & Auditor General’s report in the Eircode procurement and related matters is due in September 2015