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Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010

EDITORIAL

Uncovering government waste

In a Nov. 5 report to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the Board of Audit said that in fiscal 2009, ministries and agencies as well as other government entities wasted public money in 979 cases. The total reached a record ¥1.79 trillion — some 7.5 times the fiscal 2008 figure.

Waste found by the board has risen from ¥31 billion in fiscal 2006 to ¥125.3 billion in fiscal 2007 and to ¥236.4 billion fiscal 2008. The high figure in fiscal 2009 is attributed to a ¥1.2 trillion surplus the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency has generated in its account for payment of pensions to former Japanese National Railways workers. The agency was ordered to return the surplus to the state coffer.

The board also found that in fiscal 2008, an excess of ¥162.3 billion was transferred from the general account budget to seven special accounts of the health and welfare, farm and transport ministries.

It also detected accounting irregularities involving ¥2.45 billion in central government-subsidized projects in 10 prefectures and 56 cities in fiscal 2009. This means that from fiscal 2003 on, all the 47 prefectures and 71 cities, including 18 major cities, have committed such irregularities.

Accounting irregularities were also found in the Environment Ministry and seven other ministries and agencies. This shows that they were not careful in handling public money even though criticism was mounting on similar irregularities committed by local governments. There are other examples of wasteful use of public money. A total of 7,896 bottles of premium wine were found kept in the official residence of the ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development near Paris. In fiscal 2009, only 268 bottle of wine were served to guests in fiscal 2009. The embassy in Tel Aviv rents rooms in a hotel in Jerusalem on a yearly basis, but the rooms are occupied only on about 50 days a year.

The Board of Audit needs to make further efforts to uncover wasteful use of public money. Close attention should be paid to special accounts and hidden surpluses.



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