Photo/IllutrationDocuments show that 250 million yen was transferred to secret fund account and then withdrawn in September 2009. (Mari Endo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

OSAKA—The government spent about 90 percent of its “secret funds” under a category that requires no receipts and lets the chief Cabinet secretary decide where the money goes, a civic group said March 20.

Seiji-shikin Ombudsman (Political fund ombudsman) received documents from the central government the previous day concerning about 2.7 billion yen ($25 million) in secret funds used by three Liberal Democratic Party-led administrations.

The Supreme Court on Jan. 19 ordered the government to disclose the information to the group. It was the first time documents on the uses of the secret funds have been made public.

The funds are officially called “Naikakukanbo-hoshohi” (Rewards from the Cabinet Secretariat). Details about how the money is spent have been kept secret because the expenses can involve intelligence gathering, national security and other sensitive issues.

The Osaka-based civic group said the documents show an overwhelming propensity of the Cabinet Secretariat to use the funds under “Seisaku-suishinhi” (Fund to promote policies), which requires no receipts on how the chief Cabinet secretary spent the money.

“This is abnormal ‘black money,’ and such expenditures must be stopped,” said Tokuo Sakaguchi, a lawyer for the group. “Chief Cabinet secretaries should create a system to check whether each expenditure is appropriate.”

The group since 2006 has demanded the government release documents on the details of the secret funds.

In its latest request, it sought information on three expenditures: about 1.1 billion yen from November 2005 to September 2006 when Shinzo Abe was chief Cabinet secretary in the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi; about 250 million yen in September 2009 when Takeo Kawamura was chief Cabinet secretary in the Taro Aso administration; and about 1.36 billion yen from January to December 2013, spent by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in the second Abe administration.

The Supreme Court ordered the government to disclose parts of the documents on those expenditures to the group.

The released documents, which total 94 pages, do not reveal the recipients of the secret funds, but they show ratios of the spending under the Seisaku-suishinhi category.

The ratio was about 88 percent when Abe was chief Cabinet secretary, and 92 percent for Suga.

The 250 million yen used by Kawamura had been transferred from government coffers to the secret funds account through five installments on Sept. 8, 2009. Two days later, Kawamura withdrew all of money under the Seisaku-suishinhi category.

The timing raised eyebrows. Six days after the money was withdrawn, the Democratic Party of Japan took over the government from the LDP.

“I was surprised to see that chief Cabinet secretaries can use such huge amounts of money at their discretion,” said Hiroshi Kamiwaki, a professor of law at Kobe Gakuin University, who was one of the plaintiffs in the information-disclosure lawsuit against the government. “I hope discussions will proceed toward creating strict standards on how to use the funds.”

Masahiro Uzaki, professor emeritus of the Constitution and information law at Dokkyo University, said the disclosure of the documents carries significant weight.

According to Uzaki, it is now possible to check for inappropriate uses of Seisaku-suishinhi money by comparing the expenditure periods with the timing of elections or changes in government leaders.

“(Information disclosure on the funds) will prevent ruling parties from distributing money or buying policies with money by entertaining some of the opposition parties,” he said.

The two other categories for the secret funds are “Chosajoho-taisakuhi” (Fund to deal with research information) and “Katsudo-kankeihi” (Fund related to activities).

Chosajoho-taisakuhi funds are mainly paid as rewards to informants or on expenses for meetings.

Katsudo-kankeihi funds are chiefly used to buy gifts or provide congratulatory or condolence payments to support information-gathering activities.