State vets are racking up massive overtime payments
A vet employed by the State inspecting animals and meat earned almost as much as a junior minister last year after a huge overtime payment.
New figures released to the Sunday Independent reveal that officials and vets at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food are earning huge amounts of overtime every year, sometimes doubling their basic annual salary.
One official, who is not a vet and on basic pay of just under €42,000, managed to add €46,937 to his salary in overtime in 2009.
Staff earned €11.5m in overtime in 2008 -- though the department told the Dail Public Accounts Committee that the figure was a significant reduction on previous years.
But new figures obtained by the Sunday Independent show that overtime, as well as travel expenses at home and abroad, continued to mount last year, despite the Government's vow of greater public sector efficiency.
The vet, who took home €134,262 last year, is based in Co Cork. He earned €89,799 in basic wages plus another €44,553 in overtime.
Junior Minister at the department Tony Killeen earns €139,226 plus expenses.
Domestic travel is incurred by staff at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food department for a wide range of duties, including carrying out inspections on animal health required by the EU. Meat inspection services, and especially the annual programme for control inspections for EU schemes involving visits to farms around the country, also formed a significant element of the bill for travel within Irish borders.
One official based near Celbridge, who earned €41, 992 in basic pay, also received €26,013 for travel expenses within the jurisdiction.
He was not alone. Another 20 officials racked up domestic travel bills ranging between €17,202 to €25,571. Foreign travel was also expensive, with one Dublin-based official incurring overseas travel expenses of €13,619.
Most foreign travel involves representing Irish interests at EU forums including the Council of Ministers, the Special Committee on Agriculture, working and management committees and other international organisations.
The top 20 overtime earners in the department earned between €24,274 and €46,937 in overtime last year on top of their basic remuneration.
The top 20 overtime earners among veterinary grades ranged from €18,187 to €44,553 in 2009. Last year the basic pay of veterinary grades in the department, without overtime, ranged between €88,896 to €98,424.
According to a spokeswoman for the department, overtime is used only when necessary and "as efficiently and effectively as possible" to deal with periods of peak demand.
Most of the overtime was incurred for inspections at abattoirs and meat processing plants, at the Border and for work on IT systems, which need "24-hour" manning.