The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has told the Dáil that the Director of Corporate Enforcement, Paul Appleby, will have to 'wait his turn' to get extra staff.

Mr Ahern was commenting on a statement by Mr Appleby that there were not enough people working at his office to investigate the substantial number of company executives suspected of corporate wrongdoing.

Mr Ahern told Green Party leader Trevor Sargent that Mr Appleby was getting more staff but that the priority in that area had been to appoint more Labour Inspectors.

He said it was simply a matter of priorities, although he observed that a request for 20 extra staff when 36 were already in place seemed an extraordinary jump.

The comments follow a submission from Mr Appleby, obtained by RTÉ under the Freedom of Information Act, which says there are not enough staff at his office.

In other correspondence with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mr Appleby said the resources available to his office were 'wholly inadequate'.

Staff sought

The office was established in 2001 with a staff of 37 to tackle what was then described as a prevailing culture of non-compliance with company law evidenced in various tribunals and other investigations.

Six years on, its work is deemed important because it helps secure Ireland's national and international reputation as a good place to do business.

By mid-2005, the office had secured 130 convictions for company law offences and had pursued some 400 company directors through the High Court for dishonest or irresponsible behaviour.

Around that time, Mr Appleby wrote to the Department seeking 20 additional staff, including six extra gardaí, to cope with a growing case load.

By 2005, the office was seeking evidence to bring enforcement actions in more than 500 cases, most of them criminal. However, the director warned that delays meant a substantial number of them would no longer be capable of investigation.

Mr Appleby also said the ability of his office to analyse data held on computer was being hampered because only two staff had the required expertise.

Meanwhile, too few staff meant his office was prevented from pursuing more than a handful of large criminal investigations each year.

For almost two years, Mr Appleby has been corresponding with Government to try to secure additional resources.

Yesterday evening, the Department said it would make four extra staff available shortly and at least four more by the end of the year.