The Social Insurance Agency used 62 million yen in pension premiums to cover travel costs for its employees in the three years through March, agency officials said Friday.

The agency, a unit of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, said that the premium funds were mainly used to cover the cost of trips to international conferences overseas.

This revelation is likely to fuel a public outcry against the government’s use of pension funds to cover expenses other than pension benefits.

The agency disclosed information on the travel expenses in response to an inquiry by Yasuhiro Nakane, a House of Representatives member of the Democratic Party of Japan.

According to the agency, around 22 million yen in pension premiums was used to cover 10 trips in fiscal 2001. In fiscal 2002, around 21 million yen was used for nine trips, while in the following fiscal year, around 19 million yen was used for eight trips.

The purpose of the trips included studying social insurance affairs in foreign countries, as well as attending international conferences and negotiations to conclude bilateral treaties aimed at preventing double payments of pension premiums by expatriate employees.

The agency said the trips were “necessary to gather information and to cooperate with other countries for the smooth operation of business.”