Freedom of Information act details show the Department of Health has spent a massive €24,000 on renting potted plants since the economic crisis began.
At the same time as it said frontline service cutbacks, a controversial recruitment embargo and pay cuts for staff were unavoidable due to budget restraints, the it was able to afford cosmetic additions to its offices.
According to the figures, reported in trade newspaper the Medical Independent, the department spent €9,902.34 on renting potted plants for non-hospital purposes in 2008 — the year when the Celtic Tiger dream collapsed.
The expense — which occurred during ex-minister Mary Harney’s reign — rose to €10,839.28 in 2009, before cutbacks reduced the cost to €3,309.12 last year.
If purchased instead of rented, the plants would have cost taxpayers considerably less. They were all paid for via the department’s entertainment budget.
Hawkins House has stressed it is making savings, including the significant reduction in the cost of potted plants last year.
A similar controversy emerged last October when FOI requests revealed the Department of Communications spent tens of thousands of taxpayers’ money on potted plants, life coaching courses, taxis and sponsorship, under ex-ministers Noel Dempsey and Eamon Ryan.
The official documents — which only included the department’s expenses more than €400 between 2007 and the middle of 2010 — showed that €67,000 was spent on potted plants and landscape services during the period.
This expense category broke down into more than €40,000 to the Greenscene company between 2007 and 2009, and €27,000 to Foley Landscaping over the same time frame.
Among the other expenses chronicled were tens of thousands of euro spent on “official entertainment” at businesses like the Dax Wine Bar, the Shelbourne Hotel, and up-market restaurants One Pico and the Bang Restaurant.
However, while the financial excess of the state’s apparent flower fetish is considerable, it wilts when compared to the huge expenses accrued by our nearest neighbour.
Between 2005 and 2009, government ministers in Britain spent stg£780,000 (€887,000) to improve the aesthetics of their offices.
Among the worst users of taxpayers hard-earned money was Peter Mandelson, who spent an average of stg£2,000 (€2,274) a month on flowers during the period.