Photo/Illutration A corrected statement for expenses for political activities (Hiraku Higa)

Forty-one local assembly members felt compelled to return or correct their expenses for political activities because they involved matters concerning the Unification Church, The Asahi Shimbun learned.

Local governments provide local assembly members with funds, courtesy of taxpayers, for political activities to support their policy planning research.

The assembly members typically use the money to purchase materials or to cover activities designated as training as well as inspection tours.

In December 2022, The Asahi Shimbun surveyed 1,788 local assemblies and received responses from all of them by the following month.

In 18 instances, there was at least one case of a local assembly member returning or correcting his or her expense for political activities.

The 18 local assemblies included nine prefectures, as well as Tokyo, four government-designated cities and four cities.

The Asahi Shimbun also learned that the Hiroshima, Nagano and Tochigi prefectural assemblies had similar cases.

From fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2022, a total of 1.54 million yen ($11,780) was either returned or corrected.

Such expenses included fees to participate in church-related meetings, transportation costs to the venues, membership fees for church-related organizations and the purchase of church-related publications.

All of the returns and corrections were made after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who it later emerged was a staunch supporter of the church, was fatally shot while campaigning in Nara city in July 2022.

Many of the assembly members who altered their expenses told The Asahi Shimbun that they did so “in order not to cause any misunderstanding.”

But there are assembly members who chalked up similar church-related expenses but have yet to do anything about it.

Some of them said that they see no problem with the content of the meetings in which they participated.

If a politician spends political funds in an improper manner, he or she is required to correct their statement of expenses and return money to the local government.

But when the amount spent exceeds the sum provided, the issue of returning the money does not occur. Instead, the politician is only required to correct his or her statement.