Mr Guv, spend money judiciously

It appears that Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala has been splurging on doing up his official residence, the Raj Bhavan and air travel.

The reply to an RTI query reveals that Rs 4 crore was spent on his flight travels, by special flights and chartered copters, besides renovation of the Raj Bhavan. His air travel alone cost Rs 1.3 crore. Of the Rs 3 crore sanctioned by the State finance department for renovation of the Raj Bhavan, the governor’s office spent Rs 2.3 crore. As per the bills submitted by the governor’s office, Rs 40 lakh was spent on improving the interiors of the chambers of the Governor and his ADC with wooden false ceilings and wall paneling, glass doors, etc, Rs 50 lakh on renovating the governor’s kitchen, dining room and bathroom, and Rs 35 lakh on asphalting roads and providing kerbs in the Raj Bhavan premises. Karnataka’s Special Representative C S Nadagouda has justified the spending claiming that it was on renovation of the Raj Bhavan and should therefore be looked upon as costs incurred for upkeep of an institution, rather than personal expenditure.

Still, the expenditure by the governor’s office raises several troubling questions. Even if the expenditure was for upkeep of a public building, since it involves tax payers’ money, it must be spent prudently. Was the renovation essential? Has the money been spent carefully or was it frittered on needless extravagances? Vala took charge as governor on September 1, 2014 and within a couple of months his office put in the request for funds for renovating the Raj Bhavan. The amount is not small. When H R Bhardwaj was governor, Rs 72 lakh was spent on civil works in the Raj Bhavan between 2009 and 2012. Vala’s expenditure on the Raj Bhavan is much larger and over a short period.

Some will argue that the spotlight on the Karnataka governor is unfair. Indeed, he isn’t the only governor or minister or legislator to splurge on his official residence soon after assuming office. Our MPs are notorious for running up massive bills on ‘repairs’ and renovation of their official accommodations. It is a pity that our leaders preach about simplicity to the public even as they indulge in ugly ostentation and wasteful expenditure. The stature of the governor’s office is raised when its occupant executes his constitutional duties with utmost responsibility and when his personal and professional conduct is exemplary, setting an example for the citizens of this country. No amount of wood panelling or high-quality bathroom fittings can improve the governor’s image in the eyes of the public.

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