The Moriarty Tribunal has cost €61.2m to date, the Public Accounts Committee has been told.

Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach Martin Fraser told the committee that the spend in 2016 was €1.06m.

Last year it amounted to €6.5m, and the spend so far this year is 885,000. 0945

Mr Fraser was responding to Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy.

The Committee was told that €4.5m has been set aside in the Department's estimates for this year for the tribunal.

The tribunal was set up in 1997 to investigate the financial affairs of former taoiseach Charles Haughey and former Fine Gael communications minister Michael Lowry.

Ms Murphy put it to Mr Fraser that her party advocated setting up an anti-corruption agency.

Mr Fraser point outed that the Moriarity Tribunal could cost over €65m and the Fennelly Commission cost €3.5m and it is finished.

He said commissions of investigation are clearly quicker and cheaper and he thinks the commission of investigation model is "better in terms of spending."

He said that we would have more robust processes in the State for stopping these things happening in the first place.

Mr Fraser also said the Strategic Communications Unit will be wound down by July.

A review of the unit was carried out by Mr Fraser following criticism of its handling of advertisements placed in local newspapers promoting the Government's development plan - Project Ireland.

Mr Fraser told Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy that he believed €5m can still be saved over time in rationalising Government communications and campaigns.

Ms Murphy asked him if he was comfortable with how the Project Ireland campaign was conducted, and if there was an appropriate separation of political and administrative aspects. 

"As accounting officer I was comfortable because the money was allocated by the Government for a stated purpose ... it was done in a more modern way because we are in a more modern era.

"But I was uncomfortable with the outcome and that is why I recommended the winding down of the unit.