Part 3: Current administrative framework

Government and parliamentary publicity and advertising.

In this Part, we explain the current administrative framework for government and parliamentary publicity and advertising. This includes:

Documented guidelines for publicity and advertising

Two sets of documented guidelines currently apply to government and parliamentary publicity and advertising:

  • the Government Advertising Guidelines; and
  • the Members’ Handbook Guidelines.

Figure 3
Publicity and advertising activities affected by current guidelines

Figure 3.

Government Advertising Guidelines

Cabinet approved the Government Advertising Guidelines on 20 November 1989. While these guidelines have been accepted and used by successive governments since that time, they have not been updated since their introduction.

The Government Advertising Guidelines form an appendix to the Cabinet Manual 2001 (the procedural guide to Cabinet for Ministers and government departments). The guidelines are “for Ministers and government departments for the preparation of and expenditure of public funds on advertising and publicity”.

The stated purpose of the Government Advertising Guidelines is–

Governments may legitimately use public funds for advertising and publicity to explain their policies, and to inform the public of the government services available to them and of their rights and responsibilities. These guidelines recognise the public concern that government advertising should not be conducted in a manner that results in public funds being used to finance publicity for party political purposes.

The purpose recognises the competing interests that we discussed at the start of Part 2. There is specific guidance in relation to:

  • Scope – The term “government advertising” is explained as referring to “any process for which payment is made from public funds for the purpose of publicising any policy, product, service or activity provided at public expense by the government.” Possible objectives of such advertising are also outlined.
  • Presentation– This section emphasises the need for such advertising to be factual, “free from partisan promotion of government policy and political argument”, and lawful.
  • Format and production– The forms that government advertising may take, and how advertising material may be produced.
  • Distribution– The general expectations around the nature of distribution. These include expectations on delivering unsolicited material to the public.
  • Procurement– Reasonable and fair procedures must be used to engage consultants and agencies when preparing a public relations strategy.
  • Justification and accountability– This includes the need for clear attribution. The material must state the origin of the advertising and the responsible Minister or agency.

Members’ Handbook Guidelines

The Members’ Handbook of Services is a guide for MPs about the support services that they receive from the Parliamentary Service. The handbook is updated regularly, and the November 2003 version is current.

Section 1.3 of the handbook – which we refer to as the Members' Handbook Guidelines – provides guidance about parliamentary advertising. It states–

Funding is provided…to allow each member to advertise their services or activities on parliamentary business.

The section also includes:

  • A definition of “advertising” and what forms it may take – including websites.
  • An explanation of what “parliamentary business” may include, and what it does not include. Expressly excluded are:
    • soliciting subscriptions or other financial support for a political party or a candidate at an election;
    • party political, promotional or electioneering material for the purpose of supporting the election of any person; or
    • any work undertaken as a Minister of the Crown and a Member of the Executive Council.
  • Requirements regarding contact details that need to be included with the advertising, and the use of the parliamentary crest in advertising.
  • Guidance about the use of parliamentary party logos.

On 16 December 2003, the Parliamentary Service Commission adopted a set of principles governing advertising that is paid for from Vote Parliamentary Service (see Appendix 3). We understand that the principles are intended as a guide for MPs and parliamentary parties when implementing the Members’ Handbook Guidelines.

Funding arrangements

Each year, Parliament authorises Ministers to incur expenses or liabilities, or to spend public funds, for specific purposes. These authorisations, known as appropriations, are grouped into separate areas of responsibility, known as Votes. Each Vote is generally the responsibility of one Minister and administered by one government department.

Any public funds spent under an appropriation must be spent lawfully, and for the purposes specified in the appropriation. The Controller and Auditor- General (using the functions of Controller) has various powers to ensure that the spending is lawful.

There are 3 separate sources of funding in relation to government and parliamentary publicity and advertising. They are best explained in 2 groupings:

  • ministerial and government department funding; and
  • parliamentary funding.

The funding arrangements are shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4
Sources of publicity and advertising funding

Figure 4.

Funding of ministerial and government department publicity and advertising

The publicity and advertising activities that Ministers and government departments undertake are funded from different sources. The source usually depends on whether the activity has been generated by:

  • a Minister, and relates to their role as a Minister; or
  • a government department.

Ministers’ publicity and advertising activities

Vote Ministerial Services contains an appropriation titled Support Services to Ministers. This provides for –

… Support services to Ministers, including office administration, accounting, personnel, information technology, facilities management, media and advisory services…5

The total appropriation for Vote Ministerial Services in 2004-05 was $42.884 million, of which $24.870 million was allocated to Support Services to Ministers.

The Support Services to Ministers appropriation provides considerable publicity and advertising resources for Ministers, by:

  • meeting the costs of employing technical and/or media advisers within Ministers’ offices;
  • preparing material for written or oral presentation by Ministers (for example, media statements, speeches, and newsletters); or
  • compiling publicity outlining government achievements, to be used by Ministers (in both hard copy and electronic form).

Funding under Vote Ministerial Services is also used to meet the costs of hosting the official website of the Government (

The Department of Internal Affairs administers Vote Ministerial Services.

Government departments’ publicity and advertising activities

If a government department manages a Vote that includes funding for providing services to the public, the department can meet the costs of publicising and advertising those services from within the Vote. This publicity and advertising can range from simple newspaper advertisements, pamphlets, and brochures, to major advertising campaigns targeted towards recipients of government services. This is also true for Crown entities that are funded through an appropriation.

Chief Executives of government departments have full financial authority (within the constraints of the Public Finance Act 1989) to spend up to $100,000 on publicity expenses. For proposed spending on publicity above this amount, specific Ministerial or Cabinet authorisation is required. A Cabinet Circular sets out the procedures that must be followed when seeking authorisation of spending above $100,000, including that the publicity must comply with the Government Advertising Guidelines.6

The Working for Families programme is an example of a major advertising campaign. The programme involves significant changes to benefits and other forms of social assistance, to be introduced in a 3-year period. The changes are provided under Vote Social Development and Vote Revenue. The costs of publicising and advertising the changes were approved by Cabinet, and can lawfully be met under the appropriations contained within those 2 Votes.

Many government departments also undertake their own publicity, for example, through newsletters to interest groups. Each department also has its own website.

In some cases, funding under both Vote Ministerial Services and a government department Vote may be used to meet publicity or advertising costs. As a hypothetical example, let us say the “Health Department” is to provide a new service to the community, and is initiating an advertising campaign to advise community members how they can access the service.

The advertising campaign may involve:

  • the “Health Minister” announcing the new service, providing media information packs, posting material on the ministerial website, preparing background information for government MPs, and making speeches – activities that are allowed to be funded under “Vote Ministerial Services”. This activity would complement –
  • advertisements paid for by the “Health Department” to provide information to the public on how to access the services. This advertising can be funded under “Vote Health”.

The advertising campaign outlined above would involve dialogue between the staff of the Minister’s office and those of the government department, to ensure that the information disseminated was accurate and consistent.

Funding of parliamentary publicity and advertising

Vote Parliamentary Service includes several appropriations that let publicity or advertising be paid for with public funds. The appropriations are intended to achieve an equitable distribution of funding for support services provided to MPs and parliamentary parties, so that no party is disadvantaged.

The relevant appropriations are:7

  • Services to Members, which allows funding for “provision of secretarial support…to members”. All MPs are able to access secretarial services funded under this appropriation.
  • Members’ Communications, which allows funding for “members’ communications (voice and data) entitlements, and members’ use of stationery in Parliament”. Like the Services to Members appropriation, all MPs are able to access communications services funded under this appropriation.
  • Party and Member Support, which allows funding for each parliamentary party to “support its Leader’s office, research operations, Whip’s office and members parliamentary operations”. Each parliamentary party receives a set amount of funding under this appropriation.8

The appropriations for Vote Parliamentary Service in 2004-05 totalled $86.559 million, including:9

  • $18.043 million allocated to Services to Members;
  • $3.946 million allocated to Members’ Communications; and
  • $14.633 million allocated among 8 Party and Member Support appropriations (one for each parliamentary party represented in Parliament).

Different appropriations within Vote Parliamentary Service are used depending on how publicity and advertising is commissioned, produced, and disseminated.

For example, an MP or a parliamentary party may decide to initiate a newsletter for the public, explaining the party’s views on an issue that is being considered by a select committee. The proposed publicity or advertising activity would be allowed under the Members’ Handbook Guidelines, as it relates to parliamentary business.

The costs of the newsletter could be met in different ways:

  • The MP or parliamentary party might engage a professional to design the newsletter, and use an external commercial printer for production. A commercial service might be used to put the newsletter in envelopes, and the newsletter might be distributed by post. In this case, all the costs of the advertising – design, production, and distribution – would be met under theParty and Member Support appropriation relevant to the parliamentary party in question.
  • The MP or parliamentary party might use MPs’ secretarial support to design the newsletter. The newsletter might be printed on existing stationery (headed with the parliamentary crest) at Parliament using a laser printer, and MPs’ secretarial support staff might put the newsletter into envelopes. It might finally be distributed by post. In this case, the costs would be split 3 ways. Design costs would be met under the Services to Members appropriation; production costs would be met under the Members’ Communications appropriation; and distribution would be met under the Party and Member Support appropriation.

Under these funding arrangements, if an MP or parliamentary party uses the first approach to fund printing, they use more of their specific Party and Member Support funding. If they take the second approach, they use less of their Party and Member Support funding, but use more of the other shared funding provided for all MPs.

Management of funding and guidelines

Publicity and advertising is divided between Ministers and agencies responsible for:

  • managing the funding used for publicity and advertising; and
  • maintaining the applicable guidelines, and ensuring compliance.

Approaches to financial management and administration differ slightly, depending on whether the publicity or advertising originates from a Minister’s office, a government department, or an MP’s or parliamentary party leader’s office.

Who manages the funding used for publicity and advertising?

Different management arrangements apply to funding used for publicity and advertising by Ministers and government departments, and MPs and parliamentary parties.

While administrative arrangements may differ, proposed or actual publicity and advertising spending is generally reported to Parliament in the same way – in an aggregated form, combined with other operational expenditure.

Managing funding for Ministerial publicity and advertising

In relation to publicity and advertising funded through Vote Ministerial Services:

  • The Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services, as the Vote Minister, is responsible to Parliament for managing appropriations within the Vote. This includes responsibility for any breaches of appropriation.
  • The Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs has day-to-day responsibility for managing all resources that are used or administered by the Department, including those provided under Vote Ministerial Services. The Chief Executive employs all staff within the Department, including those who work in the Ministerial Services business unit.

Typically, preparing and paying for publicity or advertising generated within a Minister’s office takes the following course:

  • The publicity or advertising material is prepared, and printing and/or distribution commissioned, by the Minister’s office. After being authorised and then certified by the Minister’s office as a true and correct expense, an invoice is forwarded to the Department for payment.
  • A copy of the publicity or advertising material may be (but is not required to be) attached to the invoice, for the information of Ministerial Services business unit staff.
  • Advice on the appropriateness of proposed publicity material may be sought from Department officials, but this does not always happen.

Managing funding for publicity and advertising by government departments

The same roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities apply in relation to publicity and advertising undertaken by government departments, which is funded under other Votes. The relevant Vote Minister is responsible to Parliament for managing appropriations within the Vote. The Chief Executive is responsible for day-to-day management of resources, and must answer to the Minister for such matters.

In the case of Crown entities, the responsible Minister is answerable to Parliament for the performance of the entity. However, the entity’s board sets the strategic direction of the entity, and is responsible for overseeing the management of its resources. This includes oversight of resources used for publicity and advertising.

Managing funding for publicity and advertising by MPs and parliamentary parties

The management of publicity and advertising funded through Vote Parliamentary Service is broadly similar, except that the administrative arrangements recognise the constitutional separation between Parliament and executive government:

  • The Speaker is the Minister responsible for Vote Parliamentary Services.
  • The General Manager of the Parliamentary Service is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the resources used to support MPs and parliamentary parties.

The accountabilities of the Speaker and the General Manager of the Parliamentary Service are similar to those that apply to Ministers and government department chief executives, except that they are not primarily responsible for how publicity activities are undertaken. That responsibility rests with the individual MPs and parliamentary parties to whom the resources are made available.

Typically, preparing and paying for publicity and advertising within an MP’s or parliamentary party leader’s office takes the following course:

  • If any part of the publication is to be produced externally, the office makes arrangements with the external supplier.
  • The office receives the invoice for the work, and the relevant MP or party leader certifies that the invoice should be paid.
  • The invoice is sent to the finance area of the Parliamentary Service, which directly pays the supplier.

Who is responsible for, and ensures compliance with, the guidelines?

The Government Advertising Guidelines were approved by Cabinet in 1989, and first promulgated as a Cabinet Office circular. The guidelines were subsequently included as an appendix in the 1996 Cabinet Office Manual, and the Cabinet Manual 2001. However, the Cabinet Office (within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) does not enforce the Government Advertising Guidelines. The onus is on Ministers, government departments, and other central government entities to ensure that the Government Advertising Guidelines are followed.

In the case of MPs’ and parliamentary parties’ publicity and advertising, the Speaker is responsible for adopting criteria governing funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes. The Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), a multi-party body chaired by the Speaker, advises the Speaker in this role.10 The Parliamentary Service administers the Members’ Handbook Guidelines, and provides advice to the Speaker and the PSC, to help with interpreting and applying the guidelines to particular circumstances.

If publicity or advertising material breaches the Members’ Handbook Guidelines, the guidelines note that “the Speaker will usually require the member to personally reimburse the Vote for the costs incurred”.

5: The Estimates of Appropriations for the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ending 30 June 2005, B.5. Vol.II, page 929.

6: CO (99) 7 Financial Delegations and Delegation Limits for Responsible Ministers and Departmental Chief Executives.

7: The Estimates of Appropriations for the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ending 30 June 2005, B.5. Vol.II, pages 1040-1041.

8: The Party and Member Support appropriations are set based on each parliamentary party’s proportionate representation in the House of Representatives.

9: The Estimates of Appropriations for the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ending 30 June 2005, B.5. Vol.II, pages 1040-1042.

10: Parliamentary Service Act 2000, section 14(1)(b).

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