Japan

Wasteful tax spending in Japan 2nd lowest in 10 years: auditor

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Japan's Board of Audit said Friday that wasteful spending of tax money in fiscal 2017 was at the second-lowest level in a decade, while reporting that the state has been shouldering far more costs for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics than earlier projected.

According to the latest report on the use of the state budget, a total of 115.7 billion yen ($1.01 billion) in 374 cases was found to have been wastefully spent by government agencies and state-funded firms or had room for improvement in the spending system.

The cases include 292 violations of laws and regulations covering 7.5 billion yen in spending. By government office, the Defense Ministry was urged the most to address its methods of spending.

On costs related to the Olympics and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, the accounting watchdog concluded that the state has spent about 801.1 billion yen in the last five years, based on the auditing results it announced in October and after particularly checking projects involving multiple government offices.

The sum largely exceeds the figures provided by the organizing committee of the Tokyo Games in December last year, in which the government was only expected to shoulder about 150 billion yen of the 1.35 trillion yen estimated total costs for the major sports event.

The board's report also indicated that total spending for the Olympics may balloon to as much as 3 trillion yen, when adding the costs to be covered by the Tokyo metropolitan government and others.

With some expressing doubts that the board is counting in costs of projects less relevant to the event, the government conducted a study on its own and announced on Oct 30 that spending directly linked to the Olympics has totaled about 172.5 billion yen, including funds used to build a new national stadium.

But the costs are expected to further increase, leaving it uncertain how much Japan will eventually spend on staging the event from public coffers.

The board has continued to look into a heavily discounted sale of state land to a school operator with ties to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife. A fresh probe was launched after documents regarding the deal were found to have been tampered with by Finance Ministry officials earlier in the year.

The board submitted its report to Abe on Friday. In the 10 years through fiscal 2017, the amount of wasteful spending of taxpayers' money was the lowest in fiscal 2016 at about 87.4 billion yen.

© KYODO

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