• Kyodo

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The Gifu Prefectural Government siphoned off about 1.7 billion yen in taxpayer money for a slush fund over 12 years through fiscal 2003, mainly for social and labor union activities, according to an outside panel’s report filed Friday.

The panel, headed by Toshiko Haba, has proposed that prefectural officials repay the money with interest, to the tune of 1.92 billion yen.

The details are contained in a report compiled by the panel, which is made up of three lawyers. The report was filed with Gifu Gov. Hajime Furuta and the Gifu assembly Friday.

Upon receiving the report, Furuta, elected in 2005, told reporters he will study it and decide how to respond.

The report says prefectural officials made up fictitious travel expenses and food costs to raise the off-the-books funds from fiscal 1992 through fiscal 2003, which ended in March 2004.

Former Gov. Taku Kajiwara and former Vice Gov. Tsuneo Morimoto bear a heavy responsibility for the slush fund, according to the report. Kajiwara retired in February 2005 after serving four four-year terms. Morimoto, who was vice governor for three years from 1996, is currently a House of Councilors member in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The panel urged the prefecture to file a criminal complaint with law enforcement authorities against several officials who are heavily implicated. It did not identify the officials by name.

In fiscal 1994 alone, about 466 million yen had been put aside in nearly all prefectural government sections.

In fiscal 1999, then Vice Gov. Morimoto ordered the money to be pooled in the workers’ union.

The money was used for retirement parties, for families of employees who had died, and to buy computers for some Gifu public schools.

Furuta admitted the existence of slush funds in a prefectural assembly session in July.

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