Delhi govt TV ads 'beyond responsibility': CAG

MUMBAI: The Comptroller and Auditor General of India's audit report on Friday said that advertisements released outside Delhi last year, constituting around 86 per cent of the total expenditure of Rs 33.4 crore, was “beyond the responsibility” of the Delhi government.

The state government explained that the ads were issued outside Delhi because there was "immense potential to promote trade, tourism, and retail businesses...the achievements made in critical sectors such as health, education, etc were highlighted to attract best talent and businesses to the national capital."

CAG also grilled the state government for its plan to establish 'Shabdarth' as its in-house ad-agency, saying the aim was to reduce the cost of official publicity.

The Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi, the CAG found, invested Rs 28.7 crore on ads outside the capital in a single campaign during its first year in office. The auditor also stated that some contents of the publicity material violated the Supreme Court's guidelines on acceptable matter in such ads, the Times of India reported.

Between 14 and 17 February, 2016, the Delhi government inserted advertorials in 26 national and 37 regional newspapers in 14 states. Nine television clips were sanctioned for broadcast on 89 channels, including regional ones, between 15 February and 1 March, while seven radio jingles were aired between 13 and 19 February.

CAG, however, did not find the explanation tenable since the jingles and TV clips showed the achievements not as those of the government but "of a political party". Besides, the advertisements were "not linked to GNCTD's constitutional and legal obligations towards the citizenry of NCT of Delhi."

The audit report listed ads worth Rs 24.2 crore released in this period as not conforming to the apex court guidelines. While the television and print ads referred to the Delhi government as "AAP government" and "Kejriwal sarkar" or as "AAP", some of those also carried pictures of Delhi ministers in violation of the SC guidelines.

The government has argued that "Kejriwal sarkar" was simply "a nomenclature used by the public... to refer to Delhi government."

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