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Government organizations and state-funded corporations improperly spent more than 24 billion yen in taxpayer money in fiscal 2001, the Board of Audit said Friday.

According to a report submitted by the board to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, 24.32 billion yen in 302 cases was inappropriately used, board officials said.

The government ministries and agencies as well as state-funded organizations wasted about 17.1 billion yen and failed to collect about 7.2 billion yen in taxes and social insurance premiums, the officials said.

A typical example of wasteful use of the budget is the Foreign Ministry slush funds. The board concluded the slush funds totaled about 459 million yen, and asked the ministry to return about 313 million yen to state coffers because it was able to confirm what the ministry spent the money on, the officials said.

The amount of money improperly used in closing accounts in fiscal 2001 was the third largest in the past decade.

The report also said a livestock-breeding corporation in Tokyo had set aside slush funds of 22 million yen via fictitious business trips and other means.

A total of about 140 million yen was wasted on projects related to a government beef-buyback scheme introduced after mad cow disease was discovered in Japan last year, according to the report.

And in addition to the 24.32 billion yen, the report also said that leftover budget funds and the value of properties such as land that were not effectively used came to about 1.5 trillion yen in 11 cases.

Officials punished

The Foreign Ministry took punitive action against 39 officials Friday after the Board of Audit found that the ministry misappropriated more than double the amount of state funds it earlier reported, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi announced.

One official was slapped with a one-month suspension for using 260,000 yen for personal expenses from a pooled state fund at a hotel. Two others each received a disciplinary reprimand and a pay cut, while the others were reprimanded.

Kawaguchi and five other political appointees, as well as Vice Foreign Minister Yukio Takeuchi and Deputy Vice Foreign Minister Shinichi Kitajima, voluntarily took 10 percent pay cuts for one month to take responsibility.

The fresh round of punishments follows findings released earlier in the day showing that the ministry inappropriately pooled about 450 million yen — more than twice the figure revealed by a ministry in-house investigation in November 2001 — and spent about 400 million yen of the funds.

Last year, the ministry announced that about 200 million yen had been pooled at hotels, car-hire companies and the ministry, and that officials spent about 160 million yen for mostly unofficial purposes. A total of 328 officials were punished, including two who were fired.

“I feel very disappointed that new (wrongdoings) came up,” Kawaguchi told a news conference Friday evening. “I apologize once again to the Japanese people that taxpayer money was spent through (inappropriately) pooled funds.”

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