At least €7.8m was paid to civil servants who did no work over the past three years under a career break scheme.
Around 300 workers availed of the scheme which allowed them claim a third of their salary — up to €12,500 a year — for a three-year period off work.
Government departments claim savings amounting to multiples of this have been achieved in their pay bills as a result of the initiative introduced in 2009 by the then finance minister, the late Brian Lenihan.
A number of those who have been paid for the past three years under the scheme have opted not to return to work.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said a total of 22 officers availed of the special incentive early retirement scheme.
But just eight of these have returned to work after their three years off, while three are expected to return to work in the coming weeks.
A further eight have applied to convert to the standard career-break scheme, which does not include pay, while two have resigned and one has retired.
These cost the department €672,624 but resulted in payroll savings of some €1.85m, it said.
In the Department of Social Protection 54 staff availed of the scheme, and were paid €570,837 last year alone while off work.
The department said it made savings of €1.9m last year as a result of the scheme.
A total of 19 of the 54 staff have opted to extend their career breaks beyond the three years provided for by the scheme, and will not be paid.
The Department of Justice said 54 of its staff took the career break, costing €1.7m in pay since 2009 but resulting in payroll savings of €4.2m. Twelve have been granted an extension of their leave.
Just eight staff availed of the scheme in the Department of Defence, costing €281,989 since 2009 but saving €700,000. Three of the eight have applied for an extension of their leave.
The Department of Agriculture spent almost €1.5m in pay to 53 staff who took career breaks over the past three years but said it has saved more than €4m.
Twelve of those who availed of the scheme have sought to extend their career break.
In a recent interview, Simon Coveney, the agriculture minister, said he found some elements of the Croke Park Agreement, protecting public sector pay, “frustrating”.
He said pay increments automatically paid to public servants may need to be delayed.
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