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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Nakai resubmits funds report; utility expenditures now zero

Staff writer

Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Hiroshi Nakai said his 2005 political funds report, which was filed with a huge amount in the utility expenses column for an office that had no utility bills, has been corrected and resubmitted to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

Nakai told a news conference that his political funds management group recorded 2.86 million yen in 2005 as heating, lighting and water expenses, when the money was actually used for gasoline, printing and membership dues for several Diet member groups. He said the utility fee was now zero.

Nakai's funds body uses an official Diet office that is rent-free and has no utility fees.

The 64-year-old veteran lawmaker said the initial entry was not intentional and he does not plan to step down as the chairman of the DPJ's standing officers' council or resign as a Diet member.

"I have looked into the details (of the falsified expenses) but there was nothing questionable about what (the money) was used for," Nakai claimed.

He said his accounting manager explained that she learned how to categorize expenditures from his former secretary seven or eight years ago. But the secretary cannot be reached to have the matter clarified due to a serious illness. Nakai said he did not even know if the ex-aide is still alive.

A number of lawmakers have come under fire recently for huge, unexplained expenses for rent-free offices, including agriculture minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, education minister Bunmei Ibuki and Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Shoichi Nakagawa.

These lawmakers put figures of between 30 million yen and 40 million yen in the office expenses category on their 2005 political funds reports.

Farm minister Matsuoka listed 5.07 million yen in utility expenses for 2005. However, he has repeatedly refused to disclose any details, citing the law allowing that information to remain confidential.

"Amid the strong suspicions and interest from the general public, I believe that as politicians, we should be willing to disclose" the details of office expenses, Nakai said.

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The Japan Times

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