Figures released by each department show highest spending by the Department of Foreign Affairs because of international as well as national travel costs. It had bills totalling €848,910, almost half the total cost.

Taxis and car hire cost the department €507,201 in 2016 and €341,709 so far this year on travel both in Ireland and internationally.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the spending was “fully compliant with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform guidelines on official travel and also operates its own detailed internal travel guidelines”. Mr Coveney added that the central aim of that policy was to minimise official travel costs and to “achieve value for money for expenditure necessarily incurred, consistent with the effective discharge of official duties”.

The Department of the Taoiseach spent a total of €201,157.70 over three years, including 2015. The vast bulk – a sum of €127,198 – went on “ground transport” abroad. A one-off fee of €1,800 was also spent on domestic car hire to transport relatives to the State funeral for 1916 figure Thomas Kent.

Trade missions

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pointed out when he or Ministers of State undertake trade missions, bilateral engagements with foreign heads of state or government “it is normally necessary to hire ground transport vehicles, such as cars and people carriers/mini-buses, not least for security purposes”.

Mr Varadkar said details of expenditure on foreign travel were published on the department website every month.

The only department not to provide figures was the Department of Health which is currently collating the costs.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy asked each Government department the amount it spent on taxi or limousine fares in the past two years. Ms Murphy said with international travel such as trade missions, “there is a cost to those but there is also a benefit”.

She said the issue was if each department operated in a kind of “silo” with no reference to other departments, economies of scale could not be achieved.

“If we were to do things differently such as shared services, economies of scale could be achieved by one department taking a lead on taxis in terms of public procurement.”

The Kildare North TD said she was not criticising the use of taxis “but asking could we be getting better value”.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said his department used a taxi company through an Office of Government Procurement drawdown contract. The department spent €30,289 between July 1st 2015 and June 30th 2017.

Spending by his other department – Public Expenditure and Reform – totalled €59,486.

The next highest spending department was Agriculture, Food and the Marine whose taxi bill ran to €116,786, followed by Justice and Equality which had bills of €108,983.

Lowest spend

The lowest spend of €20,403 was by the Department of Defence, followed by the Department of Transport at €24,212.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said his department operated a travel policy “which states clearly that officers should only use taxis where it is absolutely necessary and when there is no cheaper method of public transport available”.

A number of departments specifically stated that no limousines had been hired including Social Protection (total spend of €82,660), Communications (€52,808), Housing (€25,597), and Children (€30,904).