THE state taxpayers' watchdog last night became the highest-profile senior civil servant to avail of an early retirement scheme.
Already, more than 7,000 public sector workers have applied to leave before next month's deadline.
By going now, staff can retire on a pre-cuts pension level and their retirement lump sum is subject to lower rates of tax than it would be from next month.
The Coalition is expected to hit its target of 9,000 by the end of the month.
The Government yesterday signed off on the retirement of Comptroller and Auditor General John Buckley after four years in the job.
Mr Buckley is understood to have told the Government within the last week of his intention to retire at 63.
He has been in the civil service for 45 years and will officially step down from his job on February 27. Government sources said Mr Buckley had let his decision be known in the past week.
Before cutbacks to public sector wages, Mr Buckley was on a salary of around €250,000 and is in line for a retirement package of €355,000 with an annual pension in excess of €120,000 for the rest of his life. It was not possible to obtain exact figures from the Government last night.
The new Comptroller and Auditor General will be appointed following an open competition.
Mr Buckley's plan to retire was announced in a statement from Aras an Uachtarain.
As the Comptroller's post is an official independent state office, the resignation had to formally accepted by the President.
"President Michael D Higgins, on the advice of the Government, has accepted the resignation of Mr John Buckley, who will retire from his position as Comptroller & Auditor General with effect from 27th February 2012," the statement said.
Mr Buckley was best known for conducting probes into the financial affairs at FAS.
He was a constant presence at the Dail's Public Accounts Committee, which scrutinises the spending of taxpayers' money.
His role involved scrutinising State spending and conducting initial investigations into specific matters where suggested waste had occurred.