Director of Government Media Dixie Marshall had a conflict of interests when she helped design a Government advertising campaign and approved it for public funding, the Auditor-General has found.
In a report to Parliament, Colin Murphy warned that public confidence in taxpayer-funded advertising was at risk unless the Government improved the transparency of campaign costs and the independence of their approval.
Examining Government spending of $45 million in the two years to June last year, Mr Murphy looked at five campaigns between January 2011 and June last year, including the well-known Bigger Picture campaign.
Mr Murphy found Ms Marshall, as a member of the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s independent communications review committee, approved a campaign which she had earlier helped design and develop.
“This is a conflict of interest and diminishes the independence and credibility of the ICRC,” he wrote.
He found Government advertising had increased 10 per cent ($1.8 million) in the year to the 2013 election, but 43 per cent ($6 million) in the year to the 2005 election under the former Labor government.
Premier Colin Barnett told Parliament Ms Marshall had saved the State millions of dollars through advertising that was cheaper and more effective. Ms Marshall had withdrawn from the ICRC in the past few weeks.
Shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt queried how savings and effectiveness could be identified when Mr Murphy found DPC did not evaluate completed campaigns and “cannot therefore review the true cost”.