Cabinet’s shady fund drained by LDP: Hirano

by Jun Hongo

Two days after the Aug. 30 Lower House election ended decades of power by the Liberal Democratic Party, the LDP-led government withdrew ¥250 million from a controversial Cabinet secret fund, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Friday.

The revelation came as the present government led by the Democratic Party of Japan faces pressure to disclose what is dubbed the Cabinet’s “kimitsu-hi” (secret fund).

Hirano revealed the monthly expenditure of the discretionary fund dating back to fiscal 2004 after he admitted Thursday that he withdrew a combined total of ¥120 million in September and October. However, he refused to disclose how the money was used.

On Friday, Hirano once more refused to say how the money was used. He also had no comment on the details of the ¥250 million the LDP withdrew Sept. 1, before the DPJ government led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was launched Sept. 16.

“I can’t comment on the issue,” Hirano told reporters, explaining that he is not in a position to investigate how the money was used during the LDP’s final days in power.

The ¥250 million was more than twice the monthly average the LDP had withdrawn from the discretionary budget. The top government spokesman said his predecessors tapped into the secret fund for approximately ¥100 million every month.

Hirano said he revealed the records dating back five years, which is the requested period for the government to keep the tab.

While keeping mum on the past expenditures, however, he claimed the DPJ government intends to reveal the monthly expenditure in the future.

“We will disclose such details from now on, possibly every fiscal year,” Hirano told reporters.

The Cabinet’s ¥1.4 billion discretionary budget can be withdrawn without restraint by the chief Cabinet secretary, who has no obligation to submit receipts on the use of the funds.

Past administrations gave no hints as to how it was used, only saying it was to “implement government duties.”

Before taking the reins of government in August, the DPJ was pushing for disclosure of the specific use of the shady fund. In 2001, the DPJ unsuccessfully submitted a bill that would have obliged the Cabinet to record how the kimitsu-hi were used and disclose it to the public.

But the DPJ shifted its position since taking office in September, with Hirano refusing to provide any details on how he intended to use the funds. On Thursday he stressed that disclosing the amount of withdrawals was as far as he would go, and that specifics on how the fund is used will remain secret.

“The details cannot be made public, because it involves other parties,” Hirano said, adding he will require at least a year of overseeing the account to decide if changes need to be made.