A Finance Ministry investigation into government spending has concluded that costs can be cut in such areas as school lunches and diplomatic facilities abroad.

The survey, designed to root out waste, covered 51 projects involving about 3 trillion yen, ministry officials said Friday.

Spending for lunches at public schools can be cut by promoting the outsourcing of cooking to private-sector companies, the study found.

It also found that some diplomatic establishments abroad are far larger than they need to be, while others are barely used.

The ministry concluded that guidelines covering the size of such facilities should be clarified to reduce costs in the future.

The survey included a study of 59 recreational facilities operated by the public pension system, which showed that 14 of them had accumulated losses as of March 31, 2002.

Personnel costs were excessively high at the facilities as a whole, compared with their private-sector counterparts, according to the study.

The ministry said facilities with accumulated losses and no likelihood of recovering should be shut down.

The survey was the second of its kind by the ministry. A ministry official said similar research conducted last year slashed 18.9 billion yen from the fiscal 2003 budget.

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