Over €2m in allowances paid to civil servants posted abroad
THE STATE is paying over €1 million annually in allowances to Department of Foreign Affairs staff posted abroad to offset the cost of school fees for their children.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is also paying more than €800,000 per year in allowances to cover the cost of top-up health insurance for its personnel overseas and their dependants as well as in excess of €280,000 in disturbance allowances for diplomats to assist with the cost of returning from posts in other countries.
New details have emerged about the scale and type of allowances given to public service staff both in Ireland and abroad.
A spokeswoman for the Minister for Public Service and Reform Brendan Howlin said last night he would be bringing proposals to Cabinet shortly in relation to allowances.
It also emerged last night that the Department of the Taoiseach is paying a clothing allowance of €444 per year each to a small number of staff in its protocol section and in the Government Press Office.
Press officers in the Department of the Taoiseach also receive an “on call” allowance of five hours’ overtime at double time every week. The Department of the Taoiseach said personal assistants to Government special advisers received a €7,125 annual allowance. The Taoiseach’s diary secretary also receives a €7,125 allowance.
Various Government departments said they were paying allowances of between €14.10 and €45.48 per fortnight on a personal basis to former Revenue Commissioners staff who were transferred some years ago under an integration agreement.
Government departments also said they were paying a special child allowance of just over €2 per week to staff who had been in the Civil Service from before 1978.
The Department of the Environment confirmed that 22 “field staff” had shared nearly €40,000 last year in untaxed allowances for making a room available in their homes for use as an office. It said two people had shared an untaxed payment of nearly €1,000 in respect of an “eating on site allowance”.
Details of the allowances were provided in answers to a series of parliamentary questions tabled by Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming.
The Government is currently conducting a review of 800 allowances paid to public service staff at a cost of €1.5 billion.
Last week Mr Howlin declined to give a list of the allowances to an Oireachtas committee. It prompted Mr Fleming to seek the information through parliamentary questions.
Mr Howlin told the committee he had asked departments to draw up business cases for each allowance which would be published when the review was completed. He suggested that some of the business cases were adequate and others “rather inadequate”.
Trade unions have argued that allowances are covered by the pay guarantees set out in the Croke Park agreement. Some teaching unions have warned they will ballot for industrial action if allowances are cut.
In its answer last night the Department of Foreign Affairs said it paid nearly €8 million in untaxed, cost of living allowances and local post allowances to about 325 staff posted abroad. It said the cost of living allowance was designed to defray the higher costs associated with living in some cities abroad.
It said the local post allowance provided assistance towards the additional indirect costs arising from the representational role of personnel overseas. Some staff were entitled to a “hardship” allowance in some locations, it added.
The department said it paid just over €700,000 in a children’s foreign allowance. It paid nearly €8 million on rent allowance for 265 staff abroad.
It also said 50 staff shared over €97,000 in furniture allowance while 46 officers shared €1.062 million in school fees assistance.
Mr Howlin said some senior staff in his department received between €48.60 and €121.46 per fortnight in a seniority allowance.
The Department of Social Protection said some former HSE staff currently employed by it had a Gaeltacht allowance equating to 7.5 per cent of salary. It said dual responsibility, cleaning, training and travel allowances were also paid to some former HSE personnel.