The finance Ministry wants all government departments to tighten their belts, but does not take austerity too seriously itself, it would seem.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), which functions under the ministry, recently spent over Rs 94 crore to furnish its new office, Pratyaksh Kar Bhawan.
The Bhawan, which was inaugurated by outgoing Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, was taken on a 99-year lease by the ministry for Rs 1,800 crore.
The Bhawan occupies around 47 per cent of Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Civic Centre in Delhi, to build which the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) spent Rs 678.79 crore — a little over a third of what it has leased less than half of it to the CBDT.
The CBDT has already paid Rs 1,200 crore to the MCD, according to information provided by the civic body to The Indian Express under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
“As per lease deed agreement, the Income-Tax Department is yet to pay Rs 600 crore,” the MCD said in reply to the RTI query.
The contract for furnishing CBDT’s new office was given to Engineering Projects India Limited (EPIL), a public sector undertaking, for Rs 94.32 crore, or over Rs 1,600 per square foot. EPIL subcontracted the job to a private firm, it is learnt. Rs 55 crore from the total furnishing bill has already been paid.
Sources said that one block of the office was furnished a second time after officials decided they did not like the original purchases. Furnishing is complete in some offices; work on the rest is ongoing.
While the MCD spent Rs 5,406 per square foot on the building, the CBDT leased it for over five-and-a-half times that rate — Rs 30,684 per square foot.
“We could have had our own building for much less anywhere in the national capital region,” a senior Income-Tax official said.
Officials of the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) said the new Jawahar Bhawan on Maulana Azad Road, which houses offices of the Ministry of External Affairs, was built and furnished for much less. Jawahar Bhawan was built for Rs 3,625 per square foot and furnished for only around Rs 400 per square foot, they said.