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Wasteful spending of taxpayer money is a common problem at both the central and local governments, according to preliminary data from a government-spending review released Friday by the Finance Ministry.

The study, being conducted at the behest of Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa, is aimed at assessing how efficiently taxpayer money is spent. Outlays being covered in the report include those funded under the fiscal 2002 budget and previous budgets.

As an example of wasteful spending, the study cites 13 Defense Agency vehicle-inspection facilities that have been operated at between 30 percent to 45 percent capacity. The facilities were funded by outlays of between 92 million yen and 648 million yen from fiscal 1998 to fiscal 2000, according to the report.

The study has also found that local governments pay unnecessarily high prices for information technology equipment, as officials in charge of procurement are often not familiar with IT and accept whatever goods and prices are offered by private companies.

Regarding the construction of public schools, the study found that outdated building standards lead to higher costs.

Under rules put into effect in 1951, school buildings are required to have ceilings higher than 3 meters for ventilation purposes — a height that is no longer necessary due to improved ventilation systems, according to the study.

The report also says that operating costs at public nursery schools are higher than those of comparable private institutions as workers at government schools receive heftier salaries. The report proposes deregulation of public nursery schools to remedy the situation.

When the ministry screens budgetary requests submitted by government ministries and agencies, economizing is rarely a consideration, a ministry official admitted, adding that the study will help the ministry examine the requests more carefully.

The review’s findings will be taken into account during compilation of the fiscal 2003 budget, which begins April 1, according to the ministry.

Out of 44 projects being covered in the study, the ministry released findings on 31 projects and will complete the whole study by mid-August, before budget allocation work gets in full gear.

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