From July 2006 to December 2010, 11 Victorian government departments and five agencies spent over $1 billion on advertising and communications.
Government spending on advertising and communications is significant and has grown consistently since 2002. Given the political sensitivity and significance of this annual expenditure, full and fair disclosure of all advertising costs incurred is a critical accountability issue. However, currently, the level of transparency and accountability for government advertising and communications expenditure continues to be inadequate.
Public reporting is partial and inaccurate, and there is inadequate oversight of government advertising activities. Estimated total expenditure exceeds publicly reported costs by up to 97 per cent.
The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) has not adequately monitored and overseen advertising and communications activities across government. It has not provided clear leadership and guidance, and departments and authorities are not complying with advertising and communications guidelines, particularly in such areas as evaluation and sponsorship.
DPC has not effectively managed the major advertising and communications contracts. It has not been able to demonstrate that value-for-money has been achieved, nor that the quality of services acquired has been adequate.
While the 2009 Victorian Government Advertising and Communications Guidelines (2009 Guidelines) are comparable with those in other jurisdictions, there is obvious scope for improved transparency of and accountability for this significant and contentious element of taxpayer funded expenditure.
A compliance assessment of five advertising campaigns shows general compliance with the 2009 Guidelines. There were, however, notable breaches that departmental oversight processes failed to identify.