EVEN with a government well used to accusations that it is obsessed with its self-image, the figures are staggering. And even for a government renowned for indecision and its obsession with consultants and commissioning reports, the costs are extraordinary.
In the last four years, as the Celtic Tiger gave its last gasps, more than €166m has been spent on public relations, advertising, consultancy and external reports.
The massive costs, which have at least shown a marked decline this year, were amassed by the 15 government departments and some of the country's biggest state bodies.
But while most bodies have managed to cut their bills, the Department of Finance has seen its costs climb.
Its €25.64m bill since 2007 included vast sums of money diverted to consultants for advice on the banking guarantee and the economic crisis.
Other departments and state bodies however, have not been too far behind.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has spent more than €10m on advertising, PR, consultancy and external reports since 2007.
Last year, it paid out €560,407 to Language Communications and Mediabrands Ltd for a campaign to promote awareness of the European Union.
Other expenditure included €18,954 for an audit of travel and subsistence and €138,061 on a research project to find out why Irish people had rejected the Lisbon treaty.
In the Department of Agriculture, a massive €3.66m was spent on advertising, according to figures obtained by the Sunday Tribune.
Considerable fees were also paid to consultants, including €26,653 for a "sedimentation" study and €23,363 for a report on the "low rates of afforestation" in Ireland.
At the Department of Education, €2m was spent on consultancies and reports, with another €1.52m paid out for advertising.
A review of thresholds for awarding allowances to specialist teachers ended up costing €41,262, while a preliminary assessment on whether Waterford IT should be made a university came with a price tag of €21,331.
The most expensive project of all was "Adapting to Diversity: Irish Schools and Newcomer Students": this report on how to integrate into schools children who have immigrated to Ireland cost €253,947.
The department also notched up a considerable advertising bill of €1.52m, spending primarily on appointments, submissions and tenders.
More than €8.5m was spent at the Department of Enterprise, with €4.27m paid out to consultants and a further €1.94m spent on reports.
A sum of €50,163 was spent on "advertising increases in national minimum wage".
Costs so far this year include €5,143 for a cryptically titled document called the "Blackberry Report" and €22,630 paid out to a PR firm for its work with the National Employment Rights Authority.
One stage agency with considerable costs was Enterprise Ireland, which has spent €6.3m since 2007 on consultancy and €1.9m on advertising.
Most likely to raise eyebrows however was the money spent on public relations.
In 2009, "PR and press activities" for a trade mission involving Taoiseach Brian Cowen ended up costing €20,959 while "press releases and speeches" for ministerial trade missions in 2007 cost €10,224.
Another state agency, the IDA, spent almost €800,000 on reports, including two very similar studies carried out in 2008.
A "brand audit" carried out by Jump ended up costing €107,000 while a "reputation audit" conducted by Reputation Inc cost €110,000.
A US public relations firm, Padilla Spears Beardsley, was paid €28,000 for raising the profile of Ireland and the IDA in America.
Fáilte Ireland said that it had spent €10.27m on advertising since 2007 and that this was a core part of its business.
"The over-riding objective of our advertising is to force Ireland as a holiday destination back onto the list of holiday options for Irish people," a spokesman said.
The organisation said it had paid €431,000 for PR advice in 2007 but had since hired an in-house team to carry out the role.
At the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, important work was also underway, with not inconsiderable sums spent on external reports.
A grandly titled "Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht" cost €606,883, according to the records.
Other projects currently being funded by the taxpayer include a report on employment potential in islands that have more than 55 inhabitants, and a study on ferry routes serving remote communities in Ireland, and in Scotland.
The Department of Social Protection used to spend large sums advertising entitlements to various allowances, according to records.
In 2007 for instance, a total of €600,000 was spent telling people about back-to-school clothing, footwear allowances and free-travel entitlements.
By this year, the message was not so good, and spending on advertisements fell to just €10,000, presumably in the hope people might not spot them.
The department's consultancy bill was the single largest expense uncovered as part of enquiries carried out using Freedom of Information legislation.
The support and maintenance of the department's "service delivery modernisation production system" has cost a massive €19.4m since 2007.
Other projects included €92,820 for "certification of unemployment by mobile phone" and €14,140 for a "travel and subsistence claim processing system".
At the Department of Defence, €440,000 was spent on external reports, including €30,129 for a report on the control of bracken in the Glen of Imaal.
A review of safety at Baldonnel Aerodrome cost €50,000, while a study based around asking women their attitudes on a life and career in the Defence Forces cost €47,746.
Defence's public relations bill was the most considerable of any government department, with more than €2m paid to Murray Consultants for a public information campaign on emergency planning.
In the Defence Forces, more than €1.1m was spent on advertising, primarily on recruitment.
But just €500,000 was spent in each of 2007 and 2008 as the number of new recruits has fallen.
Some of the reports commissioned by departments would seem almost quaint if it were not for the sheer amount of cash that had been spent.
For instance, the Department of Health ordered a report in 2008 on how a 35-hour working week might be achieved for nurses.
Hardly now considered a key aim of government, the cost of that document to the taxpayer ended up being €397,540.
The Department of Transport also proved adept at commissioning reports and in the past three years forked out at least €1.21m on them. Included in that were two reports into bus routes in Dublin, each of which ended up costing more than €25,000.
A report into a route incorporating the Dublin Port Tunnel cost €25,636 while another review on a service from Dublin airport to Blackrock and Dalkey cost €28,885.
Its most expensive report was a cost and efficiency review of Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann; it came with a bill of €327,894.
At the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport, just short of €1m has been spent since 2007 on consultancy, advertising and other similar services.
A photography company earned €19,907 for taking pictures on behalf of the department while newspaper advertising came to €97,099.
A number of well-known public relations firms also did good business, with O'Herlihy Communications paid €37,800 in 2007 and Q4 paid €12,100 that same year.
The Department of the Taoiseach spent almost €1.9m on commissioning reports, with significant sums paid out to a variety of firms.
A realignment project for garda boundaries cost €46,413, while a survey of civil service customers carried out by Ipsos/MORI cost €68,185.
The Economist Intelligence Unit was also paid significant fees for carrying out surveys on how easy it is to do business in Ireland compared with other countries. Its fees in 2008 were €382,866.
Advertising bills were also considerable, with €370,773 spent on marketing for the National Workplace Strategy in 2008 and a massive €975,775 spent on the same project the previous year.
The Department of the Environment paid out more than €4.4m to consultants for a variety of reports, the figures show.
Four separate contracts were signed for the National Climate Change Awareness Campaign: €463,455 to Cawley Nea, €45,685 to OMD, €329,550 to Mary Murphy and Associates, and €284,508 to RPS.
A review of "certain matters" relating to a waste-water treatment plant in Dublin ended up costing €34,345, the department said.
Another report on how to end local lease arrangements for the redundant e-voting machines cost €35,090, according to the documents.
A raft of reports was commissioned in 2008, one of the most expensive of which was the Irish Battlefields Project, which cost €280,542.
The Department of Finance costs represented 15% of the entire bill for consultancy, advertising, PR and external reports.
Many of the costs have been well publicised and included more than €10.5m paid to a variety of firms for advice on banking.
The main beneficiaries were Arthur Cox, Watson Wyatt, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, and Hay Group Ireland, who all carried out research on behalf of the department.
Most of the figures were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act as part of a three-month effort by the Sunday Tribune to put together a true picture of spending on consultancy, advertising, public relations and reports in recent years.
Some government departments co-operated fully, releasing details of all of their expenditure.
Others were not so helpful. The Department of Justice for instance released no figures, instead pointing towards parliamentary questions that had been answered in recent years and providing partial costs.
A number of government departments still have not responded despite queries having been sent in early October.
Some state bodies said they could not fulfil the terms of the request as it would involve too much work for them.
The controversial state training agency Fás said the request, as it stood, was too large, while the Dublin Docklands Development Authority said answering it would "cause a substantial and unreasonable interference with or disruption of work".
An Bord Bia, the state food agency, agreed to cooperate but sought Freedom of Information fees of €20,948 for the data.
The figures do not include the high cost of PR and media advice from staff working within the various government departments and state bodies.
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