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Central Bank spends €1.7m on business travel

ANY embarrassment felt by the Central Bank last year after it emerged that it had splashed out on foreign trips for its employees' spouses certainly didn't prompt it to rein in its business travel expenses over the past year.

The Central Bank spent about €1.68m on business travel last year -- about a fifth more than it had the year before, according to the bank's annual report, which was published last week.

Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan visited China last summer as officials got travelling to "sell Ireland" abroad. But this wasn't the only area where the Central Bank wasn't shy about spending money.

It also spent about €4.3m on staff training and recruitment last year -- about €1.5m more than it spent in 2009. These increased recruitment costs were necessary to meet the "expanded manpower" needs of the organisation last year, according to the Central Bank.

Despite all the training, a whopping €7.6m was spent by the Central Bank on professional fees, including auditors and consultants, last year.

Deloitte & Touche received €311,000 of these fees, while auditors at the Comptroller & Auditor General were paid €84,000.

When asked why its business travel costs had increased by 20 per cent over the last year, a spokesman for the Central Bank said that its work required attendance at various international meetings and that staff at the bank also had to travel throughout Ireland and overseas to inspect financial services firms.

"The vast bulk of these international meetings relate to the work of the Eurosystem, European Central Bank and various EU supervisory committees," said the spokesman.

"The organisation is also represented at other occasional international meetings, such as those of the International Monetary Fund."

In February 2010, Mr Honohan banned all spouse travel after it emerged that the bank had spent €68,730 to cover the travel costs of spouses who accompanied staff on business meetings.

Sunday Indo Business