Eight government departments have spent almost €1m a week since January 2008 hiring in consultants – including former senior public servants – to tell them how to run the country.

With seven departments yet to release figures – including traditional big spenders such as Education, Transport, Communications, Health and Environment – the taxpayers' bill for hiring consultants last year is set to reach almost €90m, or €2m a week.

The retired senior civil servants rehired to provide advice would invariably be on generous public service pensions and include Tom Walsh, who retired as director general of the Health and Safety Authority (HSE) in 2001. Walsh was rehired by his former employers in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on three occasions since last January. He has earned just short of €100,000 advising the department on health and safety issues.

Former secretary general in the Department of Agriculture John Malone was paid over €23,000 by his former employers in the Department of Agriculture to produce a report on afforestation.

The current chairman of Teagasc and former CEO of the Irish Dairy Board, Noel Cawley, was paid more than €56,000, again by the Department of Agriculture, to implement a report on the seafood industry.

This surging consultants' bill comes despite warnings before the budget last October from finance minister Brian Lenihan that ministers will have to slash their spend on hired help by up to 50%.

Of the eight departments who managed to produce the figures for the Dáil last week, the biggest spender by far was Mary Hanafin's Department of Social and Family Affairs, which spent €26m on consultants since January 2008, including almost €20m on eight costly IT consultancy projects.

Half of that €20m spend on IT consultancy went to just one consultancy company – Bearing Point, formerly KPMG – for work on four IT projects for Social and Family Affairs. One of those projects, worth more than €4m, was since Lenihan made his cutback plea last October.

Hanafin's department has awarded other generous IT contracts, including ones for over €3m to Fujitsu services, over €2.7m to Hewlett Packard and more than €1.7m to Accenture.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs also paid barrister Mel Cousins €246,236 for an equality audit of the social-welfare code.

Other expensive consultancy projects included a contract of more than €1.8m awarded to Murray consultants by defence minister Willie O'Dea.

This was for the implementation of a public information awareness campaign on what to do if the country is hit by a disaster and included the delivery of the Emergency Planning booklet to every home in the country.