New Delhi, Sep 6 (IANS) The Congress and the JD-U on Tuesday hit out at the BJP-led central government over expenditure of Rs 3.5 crore incurred by 23 ministers in refurbishing their respective offices and termed the expense as “wasteful”.
Reacting to a news report, based on RTI queries and published in the Economic Times, the leaders of the two parties asked the government about reasons for spending public money in this manner.
“Considering that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken about wasteful expenditure, it is surprising that some of his ministers are indulging in renovating their offices at the cost of taxpayers’ money,” Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi told IANS.
“We would want to know what was the reason behind using these amount of funds for the sake of renovations,” she asked.
The report said that for 23 ministers, the total expenditure on office renovation in this government’s first two years has been nearly Rs 3.5 crore.
Those who spent the most are: Smriti Irani, Chaudhary Birender Singh, Rajyavardhan Rathore, Upendra Kushwaha, Ram Shankar Katheria, J.P. Nadda, Sanwarlal Jat and Jitendra Singh.
When Irani was HRD Minister, Rs 1.16 crore was spent on renovation for her and two junior Ministers — over Rs 70 lakh for Irani’s office and over Rs 40 lakh for the offices of the two Ministers of State.
In the last cabinet reshuffle, Irani was dropped from the HRD ministry and shifted to the Textiles ministry.
Chaturvedi said that it was also in the news how these Ministers, when they were holding some other responsibilities, have gone for renovation of their office.
“So every time a minister occupies some chair does that mean that overall renovation and an overhaul of office needs to be done. This is something that needs to be answered by these respective ministers for spending this kind of amount to renovate their offices,” she said.
Janata Dal-United leader Bashistha Narain Singh questioned the need of “misusing” taxpayer’s money lavishly.
“Question is that you have no respect for the the government funds which is the taxpayers money and you are misusing this for your personal hobbies,” he told IANS.
Singh said that misuse of taxpayers money was not a justice to the people.
“The ministers who have spent such huge amount on the renovations of their offices shows that they believe in decoration from the taxpayers money,” he said, adding that a minister must refrain from such expenditures.
The BJP, however, refrained from commenting on the report published by the daily.
“I have not seen the report so I can’t comment,” BJP spokesperson Bizay Sonkar Shastri told IANS.
According to the paper, top four ministers – Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar – have not spent a paisa on office improvement.
While former Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah did not spend anything on renovation, her then junior minister, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, spent over Rs 14 lakh, it added.
However, as per department of expenditure guidelines, Rs 2 lakh can be spent on furniture and furnishings and Rs 1 lakh on electrical appliances in minister’s office at his residence.
The limit is higher in the minister’s office in the secretariat with Rs 6.5 lakh on furniture and furnishings and Rs 1.5 lakh on air conditioners and electrical appliances. There is no limit on expenditure if a new office is being constructed.