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CTO's overseas marketing plans questioned.

By Angelos Anastasiou

NINE months after former Cyprus Tourism Organisation director Marios Hannides was sacked over alleged irregularities, Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides raised questions anew over the handling of advertising campaigns in foreign countries in the last few months, daily Phileleftheros reported on Friday.

In preparing his annual report for the state's tourism promotion agency, Michaelides found two occasions in which suspected bending of the rules had taken place, and asked the CTO to respond to the suspicions in writing.

The response, he noted, needs to be despatched by Monday, otherwise the Audit Service's findings will be included in the report.

In his letter, dated November 10, Michaelides referred to an advertising campaign in the UK planned for March to June 2015, via the use of billboards and digital screens, which never materialised because the contractors cited inability to undertake the task.

Instead, Michaelides found, the CTO proposed that the contractor conduct a different form of promotional campaign, via television ads.

Consequently, the Auditor-general argued, in the absence of a cost-benefit analysis when the project had been designed, the audit service was left with the impression that the decision to deploy a different campaign had been made circumstantially, and with no evidence to back it, merely with the intention of using up the budgeted expenditure.

A second instance spotted by the audit service related to the invitation of tenders for 13 online promotional campaigns in various countries throughout 2015, in which the seven bidders submitted tenders featuring each of the 13 campaigns at identical prices. The total budgeted expenditure for the campaigns was e1/42m.

This resulted in the evaluation of the identically-priced tenders on technical criteria alone, which could imply a dose of subjective judgement by the CTO's evaluation committee, and only two contractors were eventually commissioned -- one for eight of the activities, and another for the remaining five.

With regard to the first finding, Michaelides suggested that advertising campaigns are designed with a cost-benefit analysis, as well as a needs-based report, before the decision to invite tenders is made.

A second recommendation was for the introduction of targeted advertising, as opposed to mass promotion, which has been the strategy thus far.

Michaelides' report came three months after an overhaul of the tenders process was agreed.

In a meeting between the Auditor-general and officials from the CTO and the Tourism ministry last July, ways of improving and strengthening procedures for commissioning advertising campaigns were agreed.

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Nov 13, 2015
Words:432
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