Photo/IllutrationKumamoto Prefecture’s popular mascot Kumamon, right (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Even though Kumamoto Prefecture's wildly popular mascot Kumamon may have been hungry as a bear, that didn't convince the Board of Audit.

The board ruled that the Kumamoto prefectural government’s use of a central government fund for Kumamon's promotion activities was inappropriate because the fund is intended to create employment.

Six staff members of the Kumamon project used a total of 362,569 yen (about $3,190) for beverages, “bento” lunch boxes, meals at restaurants, and other food and drinks during a one-year period.

The misuse was one of the 423 cases, announced by the board on Nov. 8, in which state money was wasted or used inappropriately.

“We will immediately return the money (to the central government),” said a Kumamoto prefectural government official.

In fiscal 2013, the prefectural government conducted promotion activities of Kumamon in the Kansai region in and around Osaka by entrusting the project to an event company based in Kumamoto city.

For the food and beverage expenditures, the prefectural government used part of the central government’s fund designated to create employment in emergencies.

However, the board pointed out that the prefectural government used the fund for a purpose other than the original intent and, therefore, the use was unjustified.

“We made the judgment that the money (from the fund) was necessary to implement the project because we had to maintain the health and vitality (of Kumamon) in the hot conditions (of wearing the costume),” said an official of the prefectural government’s Kumamon Group.

According to the board, the wasteful or inappropriate use of the state’s money, found by the board in fiscal 2016, totaled 87.4 billion yen in the 423 cases.

By ministries or agencies, the land ministry topped the list with 38.4 billion yen, followed by the agriculture ministry with 15.7 billion yen and the health ministry with 8 billion yen.