会計検査院報告 不適切な予算執行に猛省を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 7, 2012)
Govt offices lack awareness of critical fiscal conditions
会計検査院報告 不適切な予算執行に猛省を(11月6日付・読売社説)

Central government offices, it appears, are unaware that state finances are in a critical situation.

This is the only deduction that can be made from an annual Board of Audit report on government accounts for fiscal 2011, which lists inappropriate government spending. A total of 529.6 billion yen in state funds were misused, the second-highest on record.

The report found 89 sewage treatment plants across the country were being poorly operated after being built with subsidies from the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry. An excessive number of the plants were constructed due to erroneous demographic forecasts, causing spending of 25.7 billion yen to literally go down the drain.

Due to a failure in a screening system development project, the Patent Office suffered a loss of 5.4 billion yen that was paid to contractors. The board blamed this on the Patent Office's inadequate supervision and a lack of technical expertise on the part of the contractors.

Wasteful spending was also found in the income compensation system for individual farming households, which the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration trumpeted as one of its centerpiece policies. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry was found to have provided subsidies to farming families ineligible for the money due to their poor handling of fertilizers.


Soul-searching urged

Government ministries and agencies must take seriously what has been pointed out by the board and ensure they spend their budgets properly.

It has once again been brought to light that not enough financial support has reached disaster-stricken areas to promote projects for reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Of about 14.9 trillion yen earmarked in the fiscal 2011 budget for reconstruction projects, just 54 percent was spent.

Even allowing for the urgent need to secure budgets for reconstruction, in many cases budgets were formulated without confirming the actual needs of disaster-affected areas and their ability to put this money to work. A classic example was evident in projects for restoring agricultural facilities. Applications for financial support were sluggish because subsidies were limited to projects that would restore these facilities to their original condition.

The board called for the Reconstruction Agency and other government offices to work out fiscal assistance measures by assessing correctly the conditions of disaster-affected municipalities. This is a natural course of action.


Meet local needs

A questionnaire survey conducted by the board of 58 affected cities, towns and villages showed they wanted government officials with expertise in civil engineering and construction dispatched to help and long-term personnel support. They also demanded that complicated paperwork be simplified.

There is no doubt that increased burdens placed on local governments due to a shortage of employees are hampering the progress of reconstruction. The government must establish an assistance system that can meet the needs of affected local governments.

Some central government offices were found to have used reconstruction budgets for projects that did not directly help disaster-damaged areas. That the board in the first place never suspected reconstruction budgets might be diverted for other purposes and stopped short of pointing this out is just not good enough.

We want the Board of Audit to check exhaustively whether national spending has been used effectively for reconstruction in affected areas, and scrutinize budgetary appropriations themselves.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 6, 2012)
(2012年11月6日01時32分  読売新聞)

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