Almost £4m in retirement packages have been paid out to Northern Ireland civil servants who were then re-employed as consultants at a further cost of £425,000 to the taxpayer over five years, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal today.
Recently, the Department of Finance and Personnel admitted it had paid out a total of £424,248 for consultancy services provided by retired civil servants between 2003 and 2008.
And today, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal that these retired civil servants had already received £848,187 in respect of pension and more than £250,000 in respect of lump sums.
The total amount paid out in remuneration to civil servants taking retirement over the five-year period was £3,803,191 — amounting to over three-quarters of a million pounds each year.
The figures were released by the Department of Finance and Personnel in response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by this newspaper and have prompted anger among politicians and a leading UK-wide pressure group.
Susie Squire, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, demanded an immediate review to ensure that public money is being used in the most cost efficient way.
She said: “The cost of consultants to taxpayers is far too high and this situation is totally unacceptable.
“These payments are excessive, particularly considering they were not made to full-time employees, but part-time consultants who should not be needed in the first place.
“Some serious questions need to be asked about the professional practices of the department.”
Criticising the amount paid out by the Department to ex-civil servants, SDLP MLA John Dallat said arrangements should be revised to increase public confidence.
He said: “I think consultancy is one of the gravy trains which leaves the station on a regular basis and pays rich dividends.
“Apart from the injustice of all this to others who could do the jobs equally well and don’t have well padded pensions, retired consultants are sometimes called in to produce reports into how present civil servants handled, for example, procurement contracts and a variety of complaints which relate to the decisions of existing civil servants.”
A Department of Finance and Personnel spokeswoman defended the payments as making economic sense.