The prime minister’s department awarded the contract to create a furniture layout for the newly-refurbished Lodge to Malcolm Fraser’s daughter.
Angela Marshall, formerly Angela Fraser, from interior design company Adelaide Bragg & Associates was paid $9900 to come up with a design for the public rooms of the prime minister’s official residence in Canberra.
Deputy secretary Elizabeth Kelly told a Senate estimates hearing on Monday she was introduced to Ms Marshall by Lucy Turnbull who accompanied her to a storage facility to look at furniture held in the official residence since the 80s.
“Angela Fraser had lived in the house when Malcolm Fraser was prime minister,” Ms Kelly said.
Ms Marshall was “directly sourced” by the deputy secretary.
She came to her attention through the Australiana Fund, as well as being mentioned by Ms Turnbull.
Ms Kelly defended the decision to award a direct tender to Ms Marshall.
“It was on the basis of expertise and on the requirement to do the work quickly,” she said.
The prime minister’s department has two storage facilities for furniture from the The Lodge going back 40 years.
Their contents are largely undocumented, but the department is undertaking an audit.
“There is a large, large number of arm-chairs, three or four different sofas,” Ms Kelly said.
The committee was also told the cost of re-upholstering an original sofa used by Enid Lyons was $4407.
Ms Turnbull hand-picked the piece for the morning room, but before the renovation it had been in a staff area.
The residence also has a new “luggage lift”, which cost about $100,000.
“We have a number of staff that work in the house and the luggage lift is to avoid the need to take suitcases and heavy items up and down the staircase,” Ms Kelly said.
A staff member had recently sprained her ankle on the “precarious” stairs.
Moving the Turnbull’s personal effects from Sydney and their former Canberra residence in Kingston cost $1980.
They moved in on January 23 and hosted the first official function on January 25.
Renovating the 90-year-old heritage-listed home cost $9 million and was dogged by timetable and cost blowouts.