€32m bill for civil servants’ expenses

CIVIL servants working for Government departments claimed more than €32 million in subsistence, expenses and allowances so far this year while their overtime bill reached almost €17m.

As ministers intensify talks this week on a budget that’s expected to seek a 7% reduction in the public sector pay bill, new figures reveal the huge sums paid to staff in the 13 departments on top of their basic salaries.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen suggested over the weekend he would like to see a change in the public service that would allow a cut in the pay bill without reducing salaries.

“The Government is anxious to work with the public service unions to identify measures, including the restructuring of the delivery of public services, which would enable costs to be reduced without reducing pay rates,” he said.

While the average civil servant takes 11 sick days per year, new figures show the overtime bill for the 13 Government departments was €27m in 2008 and €17m so far in 2009.

A further €83m was claimed since the start of 2008 in extra remunerations or “non-core pay”, which includes allowances, expenses or non-salary perks of the job.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has the highest rate of non-core pay or extra remunerations, at €20m last year and €15m this year. But this is an exception because of allowances paid to diplomatic staff abroad to fund their rent and “any differential between the cost of living in Dublin and their locations of assignment”.

When diplomatic staff abroad are taken out of the equation, the total cost of allowances and expenses was just under €30m last year and €17m so far in 2009.

With dole queues and benefit claims soaring, the overtime bill for the Department of Social and Family Affairs is on course to increase by more than 50% this year. It has the highest overtime bill this year, over €5.6m at the end of September, almost the same as the overtime paid out for the whole of 2008.

The Department of Agriculture continues to have one of the highest overtime bills, reaching €4.8m so far in 2009.

This year the department promised “substantial reductions”, after it came under criticism from the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for its €10m overtime bill in 2008.

The top overtime earner in Agriculture received €53,055 on top of their pay and another official received almost €45,000 under the heading “miscellaneous”. Extra remunerations in the department amounted to €17m last year and €9m this year.

A report by state spending watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), found the average civil servant takes 11 sick days per year.

The 36,000 civil servants get double time for working on Sundays or anything above eight hours extra work per week.

They get time and a quarter for four hours a week above normal hours and time and a half for the next four hours.

Separate figures show the 13 departments and their agencies spent €77m on advertising in the past six years.

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