The national auditor has criticised Tourism Australia’s handling of potential conflict of interest among board members, and for spending $184 million on the Where The Bloody Hell Are You? campaign without checking if it was working.
The audit office, in a review released yesterday, said it had heard complaints from the industry that “perceived conflicts of interest of board members are a major risk to Tourism Australia’s reputation”.
The board, chaired between 2004 and June last year by the former National Party leader Tim Fischer, and then by the former Coles chairman Rick Allert, is mostly made up of business people with strong links to the industry.
But the Australian National Audit Office found members did not always disclose possible conflicts at meetings. Disclosure was uneven, the auditor found, even though one board member listed 71 areas of potential conflict.
Under the charter of Tourism Australia, set up in 2004 to promote the local industry, board papers should have been withheld from members with a potential conflict.
In practice all members received all papers. Rather than meet the demands of the original charter, the board changed the rules late last year to accommodate what it was doing.
The audit office also found Tourism Australia had no measure to check on the success of the Where the Bloody Hell Are You campaign, even though it had spent about a third of its $500 million on it since 2004.
The tourism body has recently pinned its hopes on a campaign based on Baz Luhrmann’s Australia film to arrest the strain on tourism caused by the high dollar.
Tourism Australia agreed with the auditor’s recommendation to reinstate the original charter. It also agreed to review the way it monitored its programs.