Errors worth $17 mil. found in COVID-19 subsidies

Japan's Board of Audit says nearly 17 million dollars of coronavirus-related government subsidies were wrongfully received or overpaid in the last two fiscal years.

The head of the audit watchdog, Morita Yuji, submitted a report on the use of state budgets to Prime Minister Kishida Fumio on Friday.

The report is focused on coronavirus-related budgets for fiscal 2019 and 2020, and looks at nine of about 800 programs for pandemic-related measures.

The auditor found 591 cases of fraud worth about 5.3 million dollars as of September in a subsidy program that provides up to 2 million yen, or about 17,000 dollars, to small and medium-sized businesses affected by the pandemic.

The report also says about 11.4 million dollars were illegally received or overpaid in another program for companies that pay leave allowances to their employees without laying them off.

The report suggests one reason behind such misconducts is that requirements for receiving payments are simplified to support applicants swiftly.

It also says follow-up checks were insufficient. It urges the government to request that recipients return money if there was any wrongdoing.

The total number of cases in which the auditor found inappropriate handling of public money was 210. The figure is the lowest since fiscal 1994, but that is attributed to restriction of on-site inspections due to the pandemic.