The ministry spent an additional € 500,000 on utility bills in 2020

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Electricity and heating expenses for a key ministry increased by just under € 500,000 in 2020, despite the majority of civil servants working from home during the pandemic.

The Ministry of Social Protection, the body responsible for key social assistance in the event of an unemployment pandemic, spent € 4m on utility costs for its various buildings in 2020, up from € 3.5m. euros during the previous 12 months.

The rise in costs, by around 14%, is attributable to all buildings in the department – including nearly 130 local Intreo welfare offices – staying open longer during the pandemic, according to a spokesperson. .

“The Ministry of Social Protection was designated as an essential service and, while the ministry made it easier to work from home for many of its employees, all of the ministry’s offices remained open to facilitate clients unable to access services. online, ”a spokesperson said.

They said as another explanation for the higher bills that some of the department’s offices had operated on shifts, including on weekends “to facilitate social distancing.”

This has led to “buildings having to be heated, lighted and ventilated for longer periods of time,” they said.

Many officials have been working weekends, holidays and other extended hours to deal with the unprecedented volume of claims during the pandemic. “

The costs are detailed in a series of responses to parliamentary questions tabled by TD Social Democrats Catherine Murphy, who had asked about the costs of utilities in each department, as well as ventilation or air filtration systems. that had been put in place during the pandemic.

Some 43.6 million euros were spent on electricity and heating in 16 ministries and government agencies between 2018 and October 2021, with social protection, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs being by far the most important. biggest spenders, with well over 1.5 million euros. paid in each case annually.

Some 21.3 million euros were spent in the departments that responded during the pandemic years 2020 and 2021.

Each department described encouraging its staff to work from home with reduced maximum building occupancy, natural ventilation and air conditioning systems among the mitigation measures used against the virus.

The Department of Health – the body whose spending on utilities fell by € 180,000 in 2020, mainly due to falling heating costs – described its own headquarters at Miesian Plaza in Dublin as “l ‘one of the most advanced buildings in Ireland with regard to ventilation systems’. .

Only one agency, the Justice Department, admitted to installing air filtration devices as a mitigation measure.

“A limited number of units have been delivered in some labs and other technical environments, in 2021,” the department said.


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