Osaka government to repay misused funds

OSAKA — The Osaka Prefectural Government will comply with the prefectural audit committee’s recommendation that its officials return about 157 million yen they had channeled from public funds and pooled at liquor shops to fund wining-and-dining expenses, it was learned Feb. 28.

The government also decided to take disciplinary measures against 220 high-ranking officials suspected of participating in the 157 million yen scam. The liquor shops have returned about 50 million yen they received. About 400 prefectural officials at the section-chief level or higher will repay the rest.

Managers of departments involved in the money-pooling will be reprimanded and receive severe warnings, according to the government. The scandal surfaced late last year after a citizens’ group requested that the use of public money by prefectural employees be audited.

The prefecture initially planned to return only 70 million yen, most of which, according to an internal probe, had been used by prefectural government employees for drinking beer and other alcohol. The government maintained that about 30 million yen, which was spent mostly on meals, was not misused.