Only 40% of Tohoku reconstruction subsidies spent: audit

Kyodo

Only 40.5 percent of government subsidies granted to Tohoku reconstruction projects by municipalities and other entities between fiscal 2011 and 2013 was used as planned, according to a review by the Board of Audit.

A total of ¥3.4 trillion was extended to 102 projects during the period for a wide range of projects, including housing, medical services, nursing care and welfare.

However, only ¥1.3 trillion was spent as of the end of fiscal 2013 as some projects were not carried out as initially planned or may have been over-funded in the first place, the review showed Monday.

The Board of Audit said the finding is not necessarily problematic, given that reconstruction projects need multiple years to be completed.

But the board, which monitors government spending, urged the central government to “examine whether the scale of such projects is appropriate.”

March 11 will mark the fourth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that wreaked havoc on the Tohoku region, but reconstruction is far from complete.

Six projects saw their granted subsidies unused, including one to extend low-interest loans to disaster victims to rebuild or repair houses, partly because it took time to reorganize town lots and prepare them on higher ground.

In the three hardest-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima alone, only 50.9 percent of ¥1.7 trillion in subsidies granted to 62 projects was used.

The review also found a combined ¥136 billion allocated for 32 disaster-related projects had been returned to the central government by the end of March 2014.

Roughly 90 percent of the amount, or ¥123 billion, was given back as the government tightened control over the use of subsidies for reconstruction amid revelations that some subsidies had been diverted to other purposes.

The government allocated ¥25.1 trillion in reconstruction-related budgets from fiscal 2011 to 2013, with around ¥20.1 trillion, or 80.1 percent, spent, according to the board. The rate compares with 77.2 percent in the previous survey that covered fiscal 2011 and 2012.

Around ¥3 trillion was left unspent on such projects as rebuilding public and medical facilities and removing of waste produced in connection with the Fukushima nuclear crisis, as projects were delayed due to poor coordination, according to the report.