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Budget propaganda campaign breaks the rules

Murray McCully MP National Party State Services Spokesman

02 September 2004

Budget propaganda campaign breaks the rules

National MP Murray McCully has welcomed the report of the Auditor-General on the Government's planned $21.15 million post-Budget advertising programme released to him today.

"In my view it confirms National's fear that this is little more that taxpayer-funded propaganda. The report strongly criticises the processes followed by departments, casts doubt as to whether the full $21 million is required, and foreshadows savings from the sum set aside after a proper review process is completed.

"The Auditor-General's report leaves little doubt as to the quality of the process followed," says Mr McCully. Among other conclusions, it states:

"However, our primary concern is with the robustness of the process of costing a significantly-sized Budget bid.

"Overall, we would have expected a more robust process to be used, and for more detailed information to be available to support a Budget bid for $21.15 million. The level of scrutiny by the Treasury of the Communications Strategy budget was less than we would expect for new expenditure of this magnitude.

"Nevertheless, in our view, the planning of the communications strategy in the period leading up to the Budget announcement evidences a disappointing lack of consistency.

"However, this letter has set out our concerns about the robustness of the process for costing the Budget bid, and the lack of consistency in approach. Those concerns mean that is not possible, in our view, to say that the budgeted costs are a realistic reflection of the likely actual cost of the communications campaign to promote the Working for Families package.

"We envisage that there is potential for cost savings once the steps outlined in paragraphs 57 and 58 have been implemented."

Mr McCully says: "The Auditor-General's report comes after weeks of legal manoeuvring by the Departments concerned. Yet it damns the whole basis of the Government's post-Budget advertising programme. The report forecasts savings and outlines a programme to achieve them.

"Overall, the report is a huge embarrassment for a Government which should be ashamed that it attempted to hijack taxpayer resources for its own political benefit," says Mr McCully.

ENDS

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