The Comptroller and Auditor General, John Dowdall, made the following statement on the record to a public hearing of the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday 13th September 2007 at Stormont:
“There has been comment in the media and I’m glad to have the opportunity to make it clear that our report is not criticising the advertising agency, LyleBailie, or questioning any aspect of their conduct. Indeed the report notes that industry benchmarks for awareness and influence are being exceeded. Because we had no concerns about their role we did not examine LyleBailie’s operations in any detail.
The report focuses on the Department’s arrangements for this contract where we do see a potential conflict of interest. It recognises (3.45) that LyleBailie had taken action to prevent any conflict. However the principle is that in the public sector conflicts of interest are always better avoided as far as possible. My report is suggesting some improvements which are clearly for the Department in its contract arrangements and its oversight of the contract.”
In addition Roy Beggs Jnr., a member of the Public Accounts Committee, told the Committee that there was “no implied criticism of the advertising agency – they have done their best”.