01/17/2012 07:56 EST | Updated 03/18/2012 05:12 EDT

DND Defends $375,000 Office Renovation

The deputy minister of defence approved a $375,000 renovation to his office last May, just three weeks after the department warned staff about saving money and impending layoffs of 2,100 civilian positions.

A CBC News access to information request unveiled Robert Fonberg approved the accelerated work to his office in May after the new associate deputy minister, Matthew King, was hired.

The renovations began in June 2011 and finished over a seven-week period, the document reveals, including moving King and his staff into the shared space at the DND headquarters at 101 Colonel By Dr. in Ottawa.

The internal briefing note, which indicated the work would cost about $379,000, stated the renovation would "improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the deputy minister's office."

A DND spokesperson corrected the total saying the department worked with Public Works to save about $4,000 by using existing furniture.

A statement issued to CBC News also defended the renovations saying the office had gone without an upgrade since 1992.

"New requirements emerged that are appropriate for the offices of the senior civilian leadership at national defence," read a satement from the DND.

The department would not explain how the money was spent on the new renovated shared office, which features nine workers, but did say classified meetings happen at the office daily and "appropriate security measures were taken in construction."

Taxpayers group calls renos waste of resources

Derek Fildebrandt, national research director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the expenditure was "an incredible waste of resources," but said it was not surprising given, what he calls, the top-heavy nature of the Department of National Defence.

"Department heads and leaders need to lead by example, nowhere is this more important than in the military," said Fildebrandt.

"It should have never been approved, especially not since we're spending hundreds of millions of dollars to move [DND] to the other end of the city... into the old Nortel buildings."

The federal government spent over $200 million in 2010 to buy the former Nortel Networks headquarters in west Ottawa and DND is moving its headquarters there.

DND also said in its statement the current headquarters will still be used after the consolidation and move to the new Carling Avenue campus.

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