Tuesday 12 December 2017

RTE spends €1,000 per day on taxis despite cost-cutting drive

Gordon Deegan

RTE spent almost €1,000 a day on taxis last year, new figures show.

According to figures released by RTE in response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, the national broadcaster's spend on taxis last year increased by 18pc – at a time when it was seeking to cut back on its operating costs.

And RTE admitted that the figures "do not include individual members of staff using taxis and claiming the expense on production of receipts".

The figures show that last year, the broadcaster spent €360,700 on taxi services and this followed a spend of €305,997 in 2011 – an increase of €54,703.

The broadcaster stated that the figures for 2012 and 2011 refer to "the taxi companies with whom RTE has contractual arrangements".

The broadcaster has declined to reveal the amount paid to named individual taxi firms in 2012.

This is in contrast to the FoI unit of another state agency, the Health Service Executive (HSE), which released details of the amounts given to top-paid taxi firms.

The Freedom of Information response said that RTE's refusal to provide this detail was "made on the basis that this information is commercially sensitive".

The response also said: "Its disclosure could prejudice RTE's position in terms of both ongoing and future contractual negotiations with related service providers."

Disclosure of the increase in the spend on taxis follows revelations that the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster provided a taxi to bring Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae on a 650km round trip.

The journey took him from Kilgarvan, Co Kerry, to Dublin and back, to appear at RTE's Montrose studios for 'The Saturday Night Show'.

The fare for Mr Healy-Rae's trip would be around €400.

Mr Healy-Rae defended the decision to take a taxi, saying that he had to be back in Kilgarvan for a birthday party later that evening.

He said he did not get a fee for appearing on the programme.

An RTE spokeswoman said at the time it would not be appropriate to say how much it cost to bring the TD to Dublin, but a number of quotes were sourced from different companies.

The most recent financial figures for RTE date back to 2011, when its deficit widened to €16.8m as commercial revenues fells and licence fee income declined.

Irish Independent

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