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Taxis cost State £5,000 a week
Sunday Independent  30-September-2001     Tom Felle

Taoiseach's Department leads spending while RTE daily taxi bill is almost £1,000

Civil servants are clocking up taxi bills of around £5,000 a week, the Sunday Independent can reveal. And RTÉ is forking out a grand a day. Nine government departments spent almost £250,000 on taxis during the last year. The biggest spenders are officials in the Departments of the Taoiseach and Finance. The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, came as a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General showed that over £54m was spent by civil servants last year on domestic and foreign travel, almost 10 per cent more than the previous year.

The Taoiseach's Department was the biggest user of taxis and clocked up a bill of £52,802.35 for the period September 1, 2000, to August 31, 2001. Mr Ahern's department has two accounts, one with National Radio Cabs and the other with Metro Cabs.

The biggest users of taxis were officials in the Government Press Office, the Government Information Office and the communications unit set up to monitor media coverage of the Government. These three units were responsible for an average of £350 a week in taxi bills.

The Department of Finance spent £46,171.80 on taxis between September 1, 2000, and August 31 last. With the average fare at £10, that figure equals almost 90 taxis a week.

The Department was also liable for £64.77 interest under 1997 prompt payment legislation for not paying its bills on time.

Tanaiste Mary Harney's Department of Enterprise and Employment spent £20,044 on taxis during the last year. According to a departmental official, the figure represented the "bulk" of the department's taxi use.

Civil servants in the Department of Education spent a total of £25,949 on taxis during the past year. The bulk was spent in Dublin with other taxi travel recouped by officials through travel expenses.

The Department of the Environment spent £10,018.98 on taxi fares last year. Almost £1,300 was spent out of petty cash for occasional taxi use, with the rest spent by officials on the department's taxi account.

Civil servants in the Department of the Marine spent £7,675.88 on taxis last year and hold an account with VIP/ACE taxis.

Officials in the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs spent £32,834 on taxis, while the Department of Justice's taxi bill came to £41,417.77.

The Department of Arts spent £10,088.19 on taxis during the past year. This figure also includes receipts claimed back from officials who used taxis from different companies. The Department of Health does not have a taxi firm account and was therefore unable to give details of taxi costs.

For most departments, the figures stated are for account taxi bills only. Amounts paid for taxis outside Dublin are claimed by officials as expenses and are paid as travel costs. In all cases, the taxis were used for official business only.

Meanwhile, state broadcaster RTÉ spent almost £1,000 a day on taxis last year. RTÉ forked out £346,987 on taxis and hackneys for employees and guests of shows, bringing them to and from their Donnybrook studios, among other places.

RTÉ uses four taxi firms and, while the figure is a total for account business, employees of RTÉ also claim taxi receipts for travel which is not included in this amount. The figures are for the 12 months to the end of July last. During the three months to October last year, RTÉ spent £92,000 on taxis, but the broadcaster had reduced this figure to £76,000 for May, June and July this year.

A spokesman for RTÉ said that extremely tight control mechanisms had been put in place in recent months with regard to the use of taxis.


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