GOVERNMENT departments between them have spent a massive €272m on outsourcing contracts for hundreds of projects to external IT firms since 2005, despite the fact that all departments have their own in-house Information and Communications Technology (ICT) staff.

The former Department of Social and Family Affairs has spent the highest amount on hiring external IT firms since 2005. It handed out lucrative contracts worth €103m between 2006 and 2009.

The largest amount spent in a 12-month period by the department was in 2006 when it paid technology firms over €26m for expertise and advice.

The Department of Foreign Affairs was responsible for the second-largest spend and between 2006 and the beginning of this year it outsourced contracts worth in excess of €43m to technology firms.

Foreign affairs minister Micheál Martin said the overall costs included "new systems and application develop­- ment projects and website-related services".

The figures show that over the five-year period IT firm Fujitsu benefited the most from a single contract.

The Department of Transport paid the company €7.45m over two years for its work on the creation of the National Vehicle Driver File (NVDF) service. Overall the department spent some €14.8m between 2005 and 2009.

The Department of Justice and its Financial Shared Services Centre in Kilkenny paid IT firms €40.8m between 2006 and the beginning of this year.

Between 2005 and 2009 the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment spent €19.8m on external services. The department employs 34 staff in its IT unit.

Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, who recently took over the education portfolio, revealed her department spent €19m over the same period
despite the fact that by 2009 it employed some 52 IT

The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources spent €9.8m on external IT services between 2005 and 2009.

The extent of the spend by several government departments was revealed in replies to a number of parliamentary questions asked by Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd.