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First Ministers' office ran up £16m staff bill

By Liam Clarke

The Office of the First and Deputy First Minister ran up a bill of £16m on staff and £130,099 on hospitality in the last year, TUV leader Jim Allister has revealed.

The figures, obtained through written questions, cover October 2010 to September 2011.

The Office (OFMDFM) has been criticised in the past for having twice as many staff as 10 Downing Street and nearly as many as the White House.

Mr Allister hit out at Stormont departments for flouting a 10-day rule for answering questions.

He said: "The worst offender was the office of co-First Ministers Robinson and McGuinness where 19 of my questions had not been responded to within 10 days."

In six of the 12 months the hospitality bill was more than £12,000.

Mr Allister said: "There will be many people in Northern Ireland who will be appalled that a government department could spend more on hospitality in a month than they earn in a year."

He added: "Mr Robinson and McGuinness cannot tell us who the hospitality was provided to because they say: ‘A breakdown is not held centrally on the financial accounting system of whom hospitality has been provided for’."

OFMDFM has around 400 employees and eight special advisers paid up to £90,000 each.

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