The Yomiuri ShimbunA lot of tax money is still being used wastefully. Government ministries and agencies must make greater efforts to rigorously formulate and implement their budgets.
The Board of Audit of Japan has released its report on the results of its audit of government accounts for fiscal 2016. The board found 423 instances of wasteful expenditure amounting to ¥87.4 billion.
Particularly striking were the cases of inappropriate spending involving money for rebuilding projects for the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
The National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology (QST), an entity under the jurisdiction of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, was supposed to have created a database for managing the health of 100,000 police officers, Self-Defense Forces personnel and other workers involved in the initial response to the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
However, the relevant organizations did not provide data about their health and radiation exposure doses, so the QST could only collect information on 645 people. Although the QST knew this would be useless for epidemiological studies, it apparently continued to spend more than ¥100 million in total on system maintenance for the database.
In another case, subsidies of more than ¥200 million were paid to a factory that was not actually operating. Cases of excessive expenditure also were detected in decontamination projects.
More than 6½ years have passed since the disaster. At a time when the budget for reconstruction work is shrinking, this money must be distributed efficiently and with a focus on projects that will truly help the recovery of affected areas. To say improper or wasteful spending is unacceptable is to state the obvious.
Set sights on Tokyo Games
In consideration of the burdens shouldered by areas affected by the disaster, the Board of Audit had refrained as much as possible from conducting on-site examinations in three hard-hit prefectures. But looking ahead, more in-depth audits will be needed to ensure money set aside for recovery work is being effectively used.
Interest in public safety increased following the 2011 disaster. Audits have been conducted intensively on projects in this field.
Among subsidized projects by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry to construct levees and other infrastructure to prevent rivers from flooding during torrential rain, some sections that had been declared completed were actually still being finished. Some bridges were found to be at risk of having water reach the bridge girders when the river level rose.
The risk of flooding remains at 24 such locations. The central government should work closely with local governments to quickly rectify these problems.
The Board of Audit has started a thorough check of budgets related to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. This check will focus mainly on government ministries and agencies, the Japanese Olympic Committee and other bodies.
The cost of hosting the Games is expected to reach ¥1.385 trillion. The lack of cost-consciousness with regard to building competition venues and other facilities has been pointed out time and time again.
From a legal perspective, the Board of Audit’s authority does not extend to local authorities, such as the Tokyo metropolitan government, or the organizing committee of the Games. However, it is possible to examine how they used state subsidies and grants.
Aren’t costs being inflated endlessly in the name of a national project? Constant checks will be essential to prevent this.