The new Irish Government tell us that substantial savings will be made on Official Cars from 16 June 2011 and on ministerial air transport.
The total cost of providing official transport to 27 Irish Office Holders in 2009 was €31,946,650. This includes €7,500,000 for 27 Garda-driven cars; the two aircraft assigned to ministerial use and four helicopters.
Last month Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence announced new arrangements for ministerial transport in place of the prevailing arrangements which consisted of 27 vehicles and 54 Garda drivers.
The new arrangement will mean that only the President, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste the Chief Justice, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence will continue to be provided with Garda transport and drivers for security reasons. The fleet of 27 vehicles will be reduced to 7. Cabinet ministers will be required to provide their own cars but will the professional drivers they recruit will be paid by the State. Former Taoisigh will not longer qualify official cars on a full-time basis.
The Garda Office Holders Fleet cost €7.5 million to operate in 2010. The average cost of a Garda-driven official vehicle at almost €280,000 per annum is high. The average cost to the State of a vehicle provided by an Office Holder but driven by a professional driver paid by the State is €120,200. The estimated savings would therefore be €4 million per annum to this budget but the cost of the drivers will remain with the Garda Siochaná.
That maybe the case with respect to direct cost of operating the Office Holders fleet. But the 44 Gardaí who are being transferred from official driving duties will, naturally, remain on the State payroll. They will presumably lose the additional allowance of €17,936 payable to this category of driver – a total saving of €394,592.
The cost of fuel for these vehicles was €183,493; the cost of maintenance was €147,339 and the cost of depreciation was €541,045 in 2009. The salary costs associated with this fleet was €4.2 million in 2009, or average annual earnings per driver was well north of €77,778. The top rate for a Garda in 2009 was €48,695 and those on the ministerial pool qualified for an additional allowance of 40% of basic pay (€17,936) per annum making a grand personal total of €66,631.
This ia an awful lot of money, especially considering that 17 of the 27 users of these vehicles in 2009 were domiciled in Dublin. That cost can also be seen in the context of the Garda Training College in Templemore being effectively mothballed to save the cost of paying recruits. The number of retired members has, incidentally, increased from under 6,000 in 2007 to an estimated 9,750 retirees in 2011.
No vehicles have been added to the Office Holders fleet since 2008 when €509,765 was spent on new cars. 14 of the 27 cars have travelled over 200,000 kilometres and two of them have broke the 300,000 kilometre barrier.
Ministerial Air Transport
Apart from ground transport the cost to the Aer Corps of providing air transport to Office Holder in 2009 was €24.44 million (€17.39 M for the Gulfstream IV and €7.05 M for the Learjet 45). The average direct cost of the Gulfstream IV – maintenance, fuel, support, catering, cleaning and airport handling costs is €4,050 while the remaining costs – mainly depreciation and personnel bring the average total hourly cost of this aircraft per hour to €7,890. The comparable hourly costs for the Learjet 45 are €1,270 and €2,950.
There are also four helicopters available for ministers’ use at a total cost per hour ranging from €1,590 to €3,130 – depending on model.
Comparison with British Government Car Fleet
The British Government operated 78 vehicles in the year ended 31 March 2010 at a total cost of €7,744,889, or slightly less than an average cost of €100,000 per vehicle. The four vehicles used by the Cabinet Office, for example cost a total of €417,000, or €104,250 per vehicle and that particular fleet includes several Jaguar and Land Rover models. The Northern Ireland Office operates two official vehicles at a total cost in 2009/10 of €329,000, or an average of €164,480 per vehicle – that is €120,000 less than the Irish counterpart.
Britain’s Government Car & Despatch Agency employs 177 persons on the official government fleet. The Director of the Government fleet is paid an annual salary of €62,849 - €15,000 less than the typical salary of a Garda driver assigned to an Irish Office Holder. The average staffing cost of individuals assigned to the Government fleet is €59,275.
The foregoing illustrates how much Irish costs are out of line with comparators elsewhere.