Police departments missing reams of accounting documents

More than 300 sections in 44 regional and prefectural police departments as well as the National Police Agency have disposed of or lost accounting documents before the required storage period expired, according to an NPA report released Thursday.

Even the NPA’s accounting section, which instructed police departments nationwide to manage their documents properly following a recent series of embezzlement scandals involving police, lost its records of travel orders for fiscal 1998.

The section denied that the book had been deliberately disposed of, saying it was lost when moving offices in December 2000.

Thirty-eight prefectural police departments as well as the regional police bureaus overseeing the Kanto, Chubu and Kyushu jurisdictions were among those that lost documents such as accounting books on investigations and travel expenses between fiscal 1998 and fiscal 2003.

Sixty-four NPA sections lost records, the greatest number of all sections involved, followed by 21 each in the Hokkaido and Aichi prefectural police.

To prevent a recurrence, the agency said it would establish rules on disposal procedures, such as categorizing documents by the fiscal year and using different colors to help prevent accidental disposal. It is also considering suggesting that documents related to investigation expenses be locked up in designated cabinets.

Of the documents lost or accidentally disposed of, 46 percent were thrown away between January and March, together with documents that had expired at the end of last year, the NPA said.

Some said people in charge had mistaken the expiration dates, while others said the documents went missing while moving offices. But some sections actually decided to dispose of the materials deliberately, thinking it would not be a problem because the expiration date was approaching, the NPA said.

The cases were found after the NPA surveyed some 3,200 police sections in the NPA, all 47 prefectural police departments and other regional bureaus regarding accounting documents between fiscal 1998 and fiscal 2003.

In February, the NPA instructed police nationwide to strengthen internal auditing after whistle-blowers revealed beginning in November a series of embezzlement scandals involving the Hokkaido, Shizuoka and Fukuoka prefectural police.