Julie O'Neill with Noel Dempsey

THE former secretary-general of a government department was rehired at a rate of more than €600 a day by her former employers.

Julie O'Neill, who had been the most senior civil servant at the Department of Transport, was appointed to the chair of a "high-level" committee.

For just 16 days' work, she will be paid €9,950, the department has confirmed. There is scope for three more days' work at a rate of €622 a day.

O'Neill stepped down from her post as secretary-general last summer, but was reappointed to the post not long afterwards by transport minister Noel Dempsey.

Her work involves developing an "implementation plan" for the merger of the National Roads Authority and the Railway Procurement Agency.

O'Neill, who has also set up her own consultancy company, would also have been eligible for a bumper pension on stepping down. A civil servant of secretary-general grade is entitled to a lump sum of one-and-a-half times their salary, worth more than €300,000 on retirement. Their annual pension would also be more than €100,000 a year.

Figures compiled in 2009 by actuary Fiona Daly for RTE's Today with Pat Kenny radio show revealed that the pension pot for secretaries-general is worth around €3.3 million

A statement from the department of transport said: "Ms O'Neill has been appointed to chair a high-level committee to develop an implementation plan for the NRA/RPA merger. The department does not comment on appointments to boards, committees or state bodies that are outside of our remit."

The department said it had no contracts with O'Neill's consultancy firm and said no other civil servants had been rehired following retirement.

"The remuneration was set by the Department of Finance at €9,950 to cover 16 days' work, with scope for pro-rata payment of €622 per day for a maximum of three further days if required," it said.

The appointment has raised eyebrows in the civil service in view of public disquiet over politicians receiving pensions whilst still in state employ.

Several ministers and TDs, as well as EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan Quinn were forced to forgo their pension payments because they were still employed by the tax-payer.