The taxpayer was charged up to €550 an hour by consultants for advice on the banking crisis last year, according to documents released by the Department of Finance.

This is over 60 times the current minimum wage of €8.65 an hour.

The rate charged to Finance, the NTMA and the Central Bank pushed the total bill so far to €34m since September 2008. This includes over €11m to solicitors Arthur Cox, €7m to PricewaterhouseCoopers, over €7m to Merrill Lynch and €4.5m to Rothschild.

Cristina Caffarra of the Boston- based consultants Charles River Associates billed Finance for 142 hours of advice at €550 an hour or a total of €78,500. A colleague, Lorenzo Coppi, put in for 170 hours at €475 an hour or a total of €80,750.

The hourly rate for legal advice from a partner in Arthur Cox was €472.50 which included a 10% discount as agreed with the government but less Vat. Managing partner Padraig O'Riordain charged this top rate. The hourly rate for advice from a senior associate of the law firm was €355.50 and that of an associate ranged from €225 to €355 per hour.

The law firm even charged €180 an hour for work done by a trainee.

And the law company was very exact in its hourly billing, with one senior associate billing Finance for 57 hours and 13 minutes' worth of advice on the Anglo debacle at €355.50 an hour.