More than £625,000 has been paid in salaries to 24 suspended civil servants.
The information was given to the East Londonderry SDLP MLA John Dallat in response to a written question in the Assembly. Wages, pension contributions and National Insurance were covered while the staff were suspended.
Mr Dallat said they should be dealt with more quickly rather than being paid for doing nothing.
"They have created a whole industry within the civil service of investigators and people who use up a lot of paper and spend a lot of time conducting inquiries," he said.
"It needs to be looked at, given the financial mess that we are in."
Permanent Secretary Paul Priestly was suspended from the Regional Development Department last August.
His role in the civil service was downgraded to deputy secretary but he had still not been found a new post in June, the head of the civil service Sir Bruce Robinson said last month.
It came after it emerged that Mr Priestly had helped draft a letter of complaint to the Stormont public accounts committee which was probing the department's handling of Northern Ireland Water.
It was revealed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment that the 24 suspended civil servants have been paid £625,624.
Mr Dallat said: "There should be a way found to ensure that while workers' rights are protected, they are not kept dangling for one-two years because I am aware of civil servants who were given their jobs back again after they were suspended for the pettiest things."