Public money is being poured into maintaining the chief minister’s online image
A government order sourced by The Lede reveals that Rs 28.3 lakh was spent between April and July this year for maintaining Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s official website and social media accounts.
The document, verified by a senior Information and Public Relations department in government secretariat, reveals that Rs 28,37,566 has been sanctioned for Centre for Development of Imaging Technology (C-DIT) for maintaining the chief minister’s official website and social media accounts.
The document reads that Rs 19.5 lakh (approximately) was spent for nine people as manpower cost, Rs 1.8 lakh (approximately) for live streaming, Rs 36,000 (approximately) for server administration and network security and Rs 1.1 lakh for development and data repository.
Additionally, Rs 73,000 (approximately) was spent for hiring cars and Rs 36,000 (approximately) was spent for internet connectivity, subscription charges, miscellaneous and again travel expenses.
The expenses amount to Rs 23 lakh and Rs 5 lakh has been paid additionally as taxes and cess.
The document also states that Rs 1.1 crore has been set aside for 2019-20 to maintain the chief minister’s website, mail server and social media accounts in the budget itself and there is an agreement with the C-DIT for doing the same.
KM Shajahan, an anti-corruption and social activist, said that this is a perfect example of how the taxpayers’ money can be spent carelessly.
“With some thousands, we can run a website and maintain social media accounts. We all are getting good connectivity and unlimited data at almost free of charge from service providers. Here, chief minister is spending around Rs 28 lakh for four months,” Shajahan told The Lede.
“This is a shame. They are fooling the common man again and again as they are not being questioned or checked by anybody,” he said alleging that if we dig out more, it is highly likely that those nine who were paid Rs 19.5 lakh would be either Communist Party of India (Marxist) members or sympathisers.
The current Left Democratic Front government led by CPI (M) has been facing flak from anti-corruption activists for its spending spree.
Latest in the series of spending spree is the appointment of support staff and provision of office facilities for A Sampath, who was appointed a special representative for Kerala in Delhi with cabinet rank in August this year.
Sampath was appointed as the special envoy for Kerala to act as a bridge between Kerala and central government after he lost the recent parliamentary elections.
With cabinet rank, he is eligible for Rs 90,000 as monthly salary and on 11 October, an order was issued by appointing a retired Indian defense accounts service person as his private secretary with Rs 21,000 as salary and 10% of pay as HRA (House Rent Allowance) as per central government norms in New Delhi.
In addition to this, an assistant with a pay of Rs 30,000 plus 10% of the pay as HRA as per central government norms in New Delhi has also been appointed. An attendant and a driver have also been provided.
CR Neelakantan, a social activist, said that this government is infamous for its spending spree.
“This is not the first case. They have been doing this very cunningly. We all know that Rs 80 lakh was spent to renovate the offices of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Local Self Government Minister AC Moideen. This all is happening in a state which was hit by floods during the last two years and when people are still struggling to overcome the fall,” Neelakantan added.
The offices of the chief minister and the LSG minister were located on the third floor of the Secretariat’s north block.
Moideen’s office was shifted to Secretariat Annexe 1 to provide space for the CM’s office expansion. At present, only the CM’s office is situated on the third floor.
The shifting and renovation process cost the government Rs 80 lakh. While the renovation of the CM’s office was done at a cost of Rs 39 lakh, Rs 12.5 lakh was spent just for electric work at Moideen’s new office and another Rs 27.97 lakh was spent for civil works.
“These are just recent examples. We all know that many retired party sympathisers are given plum posts again in the government as advisors and secretaries. They are looting us,” Neelakantan added.
In August, one Velappan Nair was appointed as special liaison officer in the Chief Minister’s office with a gross monthly remuneration of Rs 1.1 lakh.
While Velappan’s monthly salary is Rs 76,000, he was also provided Rs 19,000 as travel expenses and Rs 14,000 as expenses for books and periodicals per month.
The Lede is awaiting the state government's response to these allegations and this story will be updated as soon as we receive them.