Opposition leader Tony Abbott.
One of the Coalition's central claims about waste in the public service, that a department spent more than $180,000 studying ergonomic chairs, is wrong.
The opposition did not check the accusations with the Department of Human Services before putting the claim on hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of campaign material and in the middle of Tony Abbott's keynote speech to his campaign launch.
DHS has told Fairfax that it spent $51,000 on workplace ergonomic assessments among its 36,000 workers and that nobody from the opposition checked with the department before going public with the accusation of waste. The claim has formed a central part of the Coalition's attack on ''Labor waste'' and has featured in advertisements on TV and in other media.
Mr Abbott again referred to the ergonomic chairs during Wednesday night's leaders debate in Sydney.
At the Liberals' campaign launch in Brisbane on Sunday, the Opposition Leader used the claim again as an example of Labor's ''small waste'', in one of the most important speeches of his election campaign. ''We'll end Labor's small waste - like the $180,000 that the Department of Human Services spent studying ergonomic chairs,'' Mr Abbott told the party faithful.
The assertion first surfaced on August 6 in a media release from the opposition parliamentary affairs spokesman, Jamie Briggs, that claimed the ''Department of Human Resources'' - which does not exist - had ''spent over $185,000 on Ergonomic Assessments on the chairs of its staff''.
In his release, Mr Briggs alleged that public servants were ''sitting pretty while families do it tough'', and said he based his $185,000 on contracts published on the AusTender website.
But a departmental spokesman rubbished the claim on Tuesday. ''The Department of Human Services did not spend over $180,000 on special studies on chairs,'' the spokesman said.
''The $185,896 on the AusTender website is the maximum value of contract amounts for ergonomic assessments for individual staff members for 2012-13 - it does not represent the actual amount spent. The department's actual spend on ergonomic assessments for these contracts in 2012-13 was $51,000.''
DHS is the government's largest department, employing more than 35,000 staff across the nation in ''front-line'' agencies such as Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency.
The department has been recognised by federal workplace safety authority Comcare for its efforts to improve health and safety and to bring down the bill to taxpayers of workers' compensation claims by its staff.
''These assessments are completed occasionally when the department is trying to prevent injury or return injured staff to work, and are just one of the department's strategies to reduce risk of injury,'' the spokesman said.
Neither Mr Briggs' office nor Coalition campaign headquarters have responded to questions about why the claims were not checked before being included in the opposition's campaign material.