Brendan Howlin’s department racked up the bill after engaging a range of consultancy firms on various issues including economic consultations, vehicle procurement, and energy advisory services.
In a response to a parliamentary question from Renua TD Lucinda Creighton, Mr Howlin said all efforts are made to limit the number of consultancy contracts the department issues.
“My department ensures that every effort is made to limit the use of consultants where possible. All contracts are negotiated with a view to achieving best value for money and are kept under review to ensure this is maintained,” he said.
“When the use of consultants is unavoidable the staff in my department ensure appropriate skills transfer to reduce the requirement for consultants going forward.”
French-headquartered multinational Schneider Electric was among the biggest winners from the department payments over the last 12 months.
The company, which has its Irish base in Maynooth, Co Kildare, landed eight separate contracts for its work advising the department on energy services.
In total, Schneider received €276,745 from State coffers including a single payment of almost €128,900.
The single biggest payment of €276,883 was made to Gartner, a US information technology research and advisory firm headquartered in Connecticut.
Some of the country’s most high-profile consultancy companies also appear on the list of beneficiaries, including accountancy firms PriceWaterhouseCooper, which advised the department on two separate occasions for a combined fee of €110,700, and Deloitte which received over €255,700 in the 12-month period.
The figures released in response to Ms Creighton’s question include details of department travel and accommodation expenditure between July of last year and the end of June 2015.
Mr Howlin’s 13-day visit to Japan and the Republic of Korea, as part of St Patrick’s Day celebrations, cost the taxpayer more than €3,160, including the cost of accommodation for Mr Howlin’s private secretary.