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€1.7m paid to civil servants despite bonus ban

CIVIL servants have received bonuses worth more than €1.7m in the two years since the Government banned the payments.

A total of 14 agencies, including the HSE and Revenue Commissioners, have rewarded staff for "exceptional performance" despite the Government banning the perks early in 2009.

And even the Department of Finance flouted government rules, giving one civil servant €45 in 2009 and three more a total of €7,500 the same year.

The highest spend was in the HSE, which paid staff a total of €650,000 in 2009.

The money was paid to staff under 'merit' schemes where up to 0.1pc of the department or agency's pay budget could be used to reward exceptional performance.

An analysis of the accounts of 41 government departments and agencies, submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor General between 2008 and 2010, showed that:

• The HSE paid out a total of €651,719 in 2009 in performance-related pay.

• The Revenue Commissioners awarded €558,378 to 1,659 individuals and 54 groups in 2009 and 2010.

• The Department of Social Protection spent another €328,564, while the Central Statistics Office paid out €107,245 over the same two years.

• Gift vouchers were used to reward performance in the Department of Communications, which spent €4,615 in 2009 on 52 vouchers.

• The Department of Foreign Affairs gave awards totalling €3,900 to 28 staff for issuing passports on bank holidays.

• €1.2m was awarded in 2009 and €450,000 in 2010. Figures for 2011 are not available.

The total spend on performance-related payments do not include payments from the Department of Social Protection which paid out €61,751 in 2009 and 2010 under the Input scheme.

The department did not respond to requests for comment.

The merit payments were introduced in 1993 and have remained in place despite the ban on bonuses.

Last night the Department of Finance said the Government's position was that performance-related award schemes should not continue to operate "given the economic difficulties facing the country".

However, it admitted that in some cases, the state agency could be legally obliged to make payments.

The Revenue Commissioners said last night it did not operate a bonus payment scheme, but did reward staff who performed above what would be expected from their grade.

"The scheme is a useful motivational tool in the current climate and the average award for individuals is very low -- approximately €260 in 2009 and €240 in 2010," a spokeswoman said.

The HSE did not respond to requests for comment.

Irish Independent