Competition Bill set to boost workload; fifteen new staff needed to keep up
The Irish Competition Authority (ICA) intends this year to increase its staff level by one-third at a time of growth for the authority in both competition legislation and power. The authority has been hit by a rapid turnover of staff, which reached its peak in 2000 when departures totalled 75 per cent of its overall staff. Recruitment and retention of personnel is said to be the ICA's biggest problem. The extra staff will be essential for coping with a predicted rapid rise in work arising out of Ireland's new Competition Bill, which is expected to be enacted in the spring. This bill encompasses Sections 81 and 82 of the European Commission Competition Treaty, as well as giving the authority the function of reviewing mergers and acquisitions, which is currently carried out by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The ICA has unveiled a strategic plan containing the proposals for an increase in staff - from 29 to 55 - during 2002. A report detailing the authority's plans states that it has been "influenced by the need to anticipate and prepare for possible new functions". The decision to hire 15 more staff followed a consultation with Deloitte & Touche. The ICA's budget has almost doubled in 2002, from k1.8m (£1.1m) last year to k3.2m (£2m), to help it to reach its targets. In the report, the ICA concedes that it has had difficulties competing with private sector salaries, which could go some way to explaining the high turnover of staff. It plans to combat this by introducing staff training and development programmes, including a tie-up with the Garda Training College at Templemore in County Tipperary. The report also states that the ICA will focus on maximising enforcement and compliance with competition law and promoting understanding of competition law in regions where it is lacking.