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A public-interest organization for families of the mentally impaired used more than 200 million yen in subsidies for purposes other than their original intent, group officials said Thursday.

Over nine years through fiscal 2001, the National Federation of Families with the Mentally Ill in Japan (Zenkaren) used some 236 million yen in subsidies and other grants partly to pay off its debt and for its personnel expenses, the officials said.

Zenkaren has informed the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry of the misuse, they said.

The ministry is trying to determine whether a law that regulates the use of subsidies has been violated, a ministry official said.

The Zenkaren officials said the entity falsified spending accounts to squeeze out a surplus from subsidies, including those from the Nippon Foundation, and that it used the surplus as part of the organization’s general expenditures. The subsidies were meant to pay for seminars, fees for counselors and costs of printing reports, among other things.

“Although it’s true that inappropriate accounting went on as a long-standing practice, (the subsidies) have all been used for Zenkaren’s projects,” said Hajime Oketani, secretary general of the federation. “But we will correct the practice after looking into the matter closely.”

The officials said part of the more than 200 million yen was used to pay off debts incurred in building a welfare facility in Tochigi Prefecture for people with mental problems. It was also used to pay salaries for employees there and cover travel expenses.

Zenkaren doctored its books on general expenditures to make it look as if it had collected contributions from its affiliate prefectural federations, the officials said.

Zenkaren was established in 1965 to help carry out policy measures for the mentally disabled.

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