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New doubts about Auditor's spending report

Friday, 15 December 2006

New doubts about Auditor's spending report

United Future MP Gordon Copeland today commented on the report of the Finance and Expenditure committee, of which he is a member, to Parliament for the Financial Review of the Office of the Controller and Auditor General.

"The Review brought to light some new information concerning the sequence of events leading up to the Auditor General's inquiry into the funding of Parliamentary advertising," said Mr Copeland.

"When the Auditor General reported to Parliament in October he attached, with the report, the legal opinion of Terrance Arnold QC, Solicitor General, dated 19 April 2006.

"Accordingly I and other MPs assumed that the Auditor General had undertaken his inquiry based on that legal advice.

"However it now emerges that the Auditor General in fact based his earlier June 2005 report (which asked Parliamentary parties to take care when advertising in the pre-election period) on legal advice provided from his own office.

"When asked whether he made it clear to parties in his report that he had received legal advice, that some of the expenditure in the 2005 election could be unlawful, the Auditor General conceded that he had not stated that.

"The Auditor General also conceded that, in hindsight, he now realises that he should have provided specific examples of appropriate and inappropriate expenditure to illustrate his legal advice on the interpretation of the rules governing Parliamentary advertising by political parties in his June 2005 report.

"In my opinion the omission of this important information was absolutely critical to all that followed. To the best of my knowledge no political party in Parliament clearly understood, based on Mr Brady's June 2005 report, that he had received legal advice that some advertising expenditure was unlawful in nature.

"I have no doubt that had he done so United Future would have changed its advertising material to ensure that it was lawful.

"However, sadly, Mr Brady's legal advice was not passed on to us and we proceeded with our advertising programme in ignorance of the fact that it would all subsequently be examined against a different set of legal criteria than that which we, and all other parties, had been accustomed to."

The Report of the Finance and Expenditure Committee was tabled in Parliament yesterday, 14 December 2006.

ENDS

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