A spin doctor paid $150 an hour by the taxpayer has boasted online about how he "minimised" a Government scandal. The comments have led to suspicion of a cover-up - and the agency at the centre of the scandal is ducking for cover.

The claim came from experienced public relations adviser Brad Tattersfield, one of the Government's go-to communications experts.

It comes amid Labour claims that the Government has become even more outrageous than it was at massaging its political message.

Tattersfield stated on his website he worked at the Department of Labour "almost totally devoted to handling a major communications issue" which had "the potential to cause significant reputational damage for the department". The work "helped ensure that the impact of the issue on the department was minimised".

Secretary of Labour Chris Blake said Tattersfield had worked on the case of former Immigration Department boss Mary Anne Thompson, who was fined $10,000 and sentenced to 100 hours' community work for falsely claiming she had a doctorate.

He said the line on the website had been approved by his staff but should not have been. "It's a pity it's been approved. There was nothing you could do to minimise the impact of a large issue like this."

Tattersfield worked for the department for three months, almost entirely on the scandal.

His advice was charged at $120 an hour for 18 weeks, at an average 17.5 hours a week. The final bill was $37,710.

Tattersfield was at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for a long period before starting his own company, Context Communications.

A Department of Internal Affairs spokesman said the company had been paid $125,010 for work in the offices of Police Minister Judith Collins, Education Minister Anne Tolley and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett. He worked for the ministers periodically between November 2008 and September last year.

Tattersfield also managed communications for Prime Minister John Key's Job Summit and handled communications for the 2025 Taskforce, led by Don Brash.

Tattersfield's company also worked for the Department of Building and Housing from December 2009 to June last year and was paid $110,813 with a maximum hourly rate of $150.

Spending watchdog and Labour MP Chris Hipkins said National was spending huge amounts of money on image-shaping. He acknowledged that Labour was criticised for the number of communications staff while it was in power but said National was spending large sums of taxpayer cash to buy experienced spin doctors.

He said the number of Beehive staff earning more than $100,000 a year had rocketed.

Whitireia Journalism School head Jim Tucker said Tattersfield's claim led him to assume there had been a cover-up or that Tattersfield was hyping his involvement. "The journalist in me asks 'what are they hiding?'." Tattersfield has now changed his online comments.