Law urged to regulate state PR spending

Law urged to regulate state PR spending

Transparency 'will avoid abuse of funds'

A law to regulate state spending on advertising and public relations is needed to ensure transparency and fair play, a seminar has been told.

Tippatrai Saelawong, Thailand Development Research Institute researcher, said the amount the state has spent on PR projects is "insignificant" compared with other sectors but there should be rules to control spending to avoid a lack of transparency and abuse of funds.

Citing a private company's survey results, he said the state spent almost eight billion baht on advertising and PR activities for various ministries in 2013.

"The key is cost-effectiveness and transparency. There must be rules to ensure fair competition [among agencies bidding on PR projects]," he told the seminar hosted by the Thai Journalists Association (TJA).

The seminar was organised ahead of the planned introduction of a draft law to control spending on public relations.

The proposed law, drafted by six anti-corruption organisations and led by the TJA and the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT), is being reviewed by the Council of State before it is submitted to the cabinet and the National Legislative Assembly for consideration.

Mr Tippatrai said the proposed law should require government agencies to publicly disclose their PR activities.

Mana Nimitmongkol, the ACT director, said there are positive signs the interim government will back the proposed law.

He said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has raised authorities' advertising and PR campaigns in several forums.

At one forum, Gen Prayut told cabinet ministers and state officials to refrain from posting their names and faces on billboards rented to publicise state projects.

"It is a very new law that proposes mechanisms for examination and scrutiny. We will submit it to the government as soon as possible. There is a good sign from the prime minister," Mr Mana said.

He said the six organisations are also discussing a proposal calling for the establishment of a new body to screen and investigate state spending on PR activities and advertising. He said the body would bring in all sectors including professional media institutions.

Thanakorn Chuanpanich, author of the anti-graft manual Hang Kradik Mah (Wagging the Dog), said state sector PR spending plans should be first examined by the Office of the Auditor-General to determine if they are in the public interest.

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