One of the country's most powerful civil servants told politicians that he would probably be fired if he commented on the controversial issue of TDs fobbing in at Leinster House.

Robert Watt, Secretary General at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, was speaking at the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform.

He told Solidarity/People-Before-Profit TD Paul Murphy that he did not have any views on the matter that could be shared publicly.

"I'd probably be fired if I said anything," he said.

The development came as the Taoiseach told the Dáil that the expenses system in Leinster House is too lax.

Leo Varadkar said it was designed by politicians for politicians and it must end. He said already efforts were under way to have it changed for the next Dáil.

He added that he spoke to Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy over the weekend and the Cork North Central TD was willing to answer questions in any investigation of his expenses.

Concerns were raised last weekend about Mr Murphy's Dáil attendance record and the expenses he claimed over the past two years. 

Today, Sinn Féin accused the Government of being out of touch and cut off from people's lives.

Party Leader Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil that this is typified by Mr Murphy's actions.

Separately Mr Watt was also questioned on the National Children's Hospital (NCH) and asked by why Paul Quinn resigned as the State's chief procurement Officer of the hospital.

"He had made his contribution and the procurement process had got to a certain stage and felt he felt it would be best for others to step in," Mr Watt said.

When asked if he was happy with the office of public procurement in relation to costs surrounding the NCH, Mr Watt responded saying "I've spoken about this, for seven hours before, and I've nothing further to add".

Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh asked Mr Watt if his view on the National Broadband Plan has changed. In reply, he said: "It's my job to give my advice and it's up to the Cabinet to accept or not that advice. 

"So I did my job, they did their job and they made a decision so I've nothing further to add on the matter."

Meanwhile, 85% of customers surveyed were satisfied with the service received from civil service according to the 2019 Civil Service Customer Satisfaction Survey, according to Mr Watt.

He said that was up from 83% in 2017 and 76% in 2015.

Mr Watt told the committee that "reforms have been introduced to make the Civil Service more responsive".

The same percentage (85%) was satisfied with the outcome of their most recent contact with the civil service up from 82% in 2017 and 76% in 2015.

Furthermore, 89% of customers indicated that service levels are mostly meeting, or exceeding, expectations while 87% were satisfied with both the knowledge and helpfulness of staff.

The survey also revealed the public's perceptions of civil service efficiency, trust equality have also all improved since 2017.

Mr Watt told the committee that it would help to have a more sensible engagement with employees that are not performing well in the civil service. He said it was difficult to deal with underperforming employees but there are tools in place.

He also acknowledged that that there will be challenges in recruiting and retaining staff in the civil service if the economy continues to grow.

Reporting by Mícheál Lehane, Sharon Lynch