Government and parliamentary publicity and advertising.

I have pleasure in presenting this report about publicly funded publicity and advertising.

Publicity and advertising are important activities for governments and parliamentary parties, which can legitimately be paid for with public funds. But at the same time such activities are inherently sensitive, and open to the risk of abuse.

My office has been involved in this area since the late 1980s. We are often asked to give assurance about particular advertising proposals, and we receive complaints about spending that is considered inappropriate. We have observed, from this work, that the amount of publicly funded publicity and advertising has increased markedly in the past 10 years, and the nature of advertising and publicity has changed.

We have also been concerned for some time about weaknesses in the guidelines and administrative framework for this spending. This report discusses the framework that was last reviewed in 1989, and describes how practices have changed – particularly in the context of MMP.

The report is not intended to be critical of any government or party, and tries to find a way forward. The issues we identify cover the boundary between the executive and legislative branches of government. Any new framework will therefore require a cross-party consensus, and input from the parliamentary agencies as well as government departments. I have consulted widely with both branches of government, and have been encouraged by the strong support for the need for change.

I have carefully considered the timing of this report, particularly with a general election imminent. In my view, the right time to consider a new framework for publicly funded publicity and advertising is after the election. However, I have determined that the report should be presented now, so that this difficult area can be properly understood.

I am grateful to all who took part, for the helpful way in which they addressed the topic, and for the useful suggestions that we received.


K B Brady
Controller and Auditor-General

17 June 2005

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