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Government millions spent on PR help: report

TT/Rebecca Martin · 21 Jun 2011, 11:10

Published: 21 Jun 2011 11:10 GMT+02:00

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A significant amount was spent on explaining financial policies.

While most of the money has been spent on technical solutions for the government's website and printed information materials, over 800,000 kronor has gone to the Kreab & Gavin Anderson public relations agency, a firm with close ties to the Moderate party, reported Dagens Nyheter (DN) on Tuesday.

“For us who find all this self-evident it is easy to get blind to it,” said head of information at the finance ministry, Christine von Sydow, to DN.

The task of the PR company was to ensure that the government’s financial framework was made understandable to the Swedish public. A series of seminars were commissioned for finance ministry administrators.

Chairman of the Riksdag’s Committee of the Constitution, social democrat Sven-Erik Österberg thinks that it is strange that the government hired a PR company to explain its own financial policy.

“The finance ministry has 400 employees, so you would’ve though that they’d be able to explain their own framework,” said Österberg to DN.

But officials from the ministry disagree.

According to von Sydow, the ministry hired Kreab to make the framework of financial policy more graspable for the general public both in texts and graphics.

They were also to look at how to reach target groups in society who didn’t surf into the ministry’s web pages.

“We noticed that almost all those that visited the site were professional users like journalists, tax lawyers, or auditors,” von Sydow told the paper.

The PR agency Kreab was therefore hired to help them simplify the texts and make the information material more digestible for the general public.

Kreab is one of Sweden’s oldest PR agencies, founded in 1970 by Peje Emilsson responsible for the Moderate party election campaign the same year.

Foreign minister Carl Bildt has previously been chairman of the board and former minister for employment Sven-Otto Littorin was employed by the agency in the 1990’s, according to DN.

Sven-Erik Österberg told DN that a review of the money spent by on communications consultants may be in the cards.

Story continues below…

“It looks like this could have to do with party politics, how to defend the party’s policies,” he said to DN adding that regulations may have to be reviewed.

But according to prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, the government is not behind the hiring of PR consultants.

“This has been handled by the non-political part of the state administration and isn’t something that the government has decided on,” Reinfeldt spokesperson Sebastian Carlsson told daily Aftonbladet.

TT/Rebecca Martin (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:24 June 21, 2011 by farnoxo
15:49 June 21, 2011 by Kaethar
Makes sense to me... 119 million for 3 years worth of work really isn't a lot of money. Looking at the bigger picture I'd say it's worth it.
07:43 June 22, 2011 by Luke R D
"explaining financial policies", or hiding sinister facts behind fluffy, more digestible and agreeable terminology? I've worked with PR agencies before, they're in the business of utter bulls#$t, or taking "nasty, inconvenient information" and turning into utter bulls#$t.
07:49 June 22, 2011 by isenhand
propaganda plays such an important part in what organisations do, it would surprise me if they had not spent any money on it. Politics is all about manipulating the opinions of a groups of ppl who have very little understanding of what is going on!
10:32 June 22, 2011 by Borilla
In many countries, the expenditure of public funds to promote what is essentially one party's (the Moderates') agenda would be illegal. Is the "non-political part" of the State's administration not answerable for these expenditures? Doesn't the government already employ hundreds of people to do the same thing? If those government employees are unable to do their job shouldn't they be replaced? Shouldn't things like this be placed for bids in an open manner? In the US, in Louisiana, the then governor was asked why he gave government contracts to his friends. His answer:"Because I don't want to give them to my enemies." Democracy requires open competition for government money, where ther is an actual need.
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