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Smriti Irani spent Rs 70 lakh on office decor, reveals RTI enquiry
While four of the biggest Cabinet ministers in the Modi government – finance minister Arun Jaitley, home minister Rajnath Singh, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Manohar Parrikar did not spend a single penny on upgrading their offices, a few junior ministers have already spent a fortune.

A few junior and lesser-heavy weight ministers, especially the ones who were recently affected by reshuffles got major renovations carried out at their office premises. An RTI enquiry by ET has revealed that money was spent on decorations including premium washbasins, designer glass partitions and wooden flooring.

23 ministers in the Modi government have incurred office renovation expenses of Rs 3.5 crore in two years. The ministers who spent the most, are: Smriti Irani, Chaudhary Birender Singh, Rajyavardhan Rathore, Upendra Kushwaha, RS Katheria, JP Nadda, Sanwar Jat and Jitendra Singh.

In the recent Cabinet reshuffle Irani was moved from HRD to textiles ministry, while Katheria and Jat were dropped from the Council of ministers. When Irani was the HRD minister, Rs 1.16 crore was spent on renovations, including Rs 70 lakh on her office and Rs 40 lakh on the offices of two of her junior ministers of state.

However, the HRD ministry failed to reply ET's query on why new offices were required for junior ministers, as HRD ministry has had junior ministers before also.

A huge chunk of this money went into a new conference room in Irani's office. Chaudhary's office renovation expenses of Rs 70 lakh were largely spent on flooring and ceiling.

While senior minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah did not spend any money on her office renovation, her junior minister, MA Naqvi, raised a bill of over Rs 14 lakh, including buying new dustbins worth Rs 7,000.

Naqvi told ET that although he was not aware of the exact details of the expenses incurred on renovations, his office had been in "shambles" when he had taken charge.

On contacting, I&B ministry told ET: "There was no office for MoS to sit in when he took over. He sat in a small room for over six months. The ministry got space on the first floor. The cost received under RTI is not for refurbishing an office. It is for constructing a new office. The space that we got was raw and bereft of standard civil/electrical design. The area of 2,200 square feet constructed comprises eight offices — minister's chambers, conference room for his meetings, space for his OSD, private secretary, office staff and waiting room."

As per guidelines there is a cap on expenditure of Rs 2 lakh on furniture and Rs 1 lakh on electrical appliances in a minister's office. This limit becomes higher in the minister's office in the secretariat at Rs 6.5 lakh on furniture and furnishings and Rs 1.5 lakh on electrical appliances. However, there is no limit assigned on the expenditure if a new office is constructed.

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