Japan's new PM admits accounting errors
TOKYO (AFP) — Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who took office this week vowing to turn a page on the last government's scandals, voiced regret Friday for accounting errors by his office but denied wrongdoing.
Fukuda admitted media reports that his political support group in his constituency crossed off its name on receipts and instead attributed the receipts to the ruling party's local chapter.
He denied that the group was trying to divert funds to evade authorities, saying it was simply sloppy accounting.
"Officials in charge of the accounting omitted the procedure for the asking of new receipts," he told reporters.
"It has nothing to do with making a profit or financial wrongdoing," he said. "But as the head of the office I really feel ashamed."
Fukuda took over Tuesday from fellow Liberal Democratic Party member Shinzo Abe, who resigned after a tumultuous year in office wracked by scandals.
Fukuda, a 71-year-old political veteran, enjoys strong support in early polls, giving him a boost in his battle with the opposition, which seized control of one house of parliament from the LDP in July elections.
Media gave different figures on the amount of money involved in the questionable receipts. The Asahi Shimbun said that receipts for 5.7 million yen (5,000 dollars) in expenses were redirected to the LDP's local chapter.
In one incident, the newspaper said a hotel issued a receipt for 70,000 yen to Fukuda's political group for meeting costs. But in later filings, the name of the group was crossed out and replaced with the LDP chapter.
The LDP's office in Fukuda's constituency separately plans to return some money it received from a cleaning company out of fear it broke laws on political funding, chief government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura said.
Japanese law prohibits politicians from receiving contributions from any company that has contracts with the government.
The cleaning company in question had a contract with the government in 2005 ahead of a general election, public broadcaster NHK reported.
"Prime Minister Fukuda instructed the office to take procedures to return the political contribution at issue," Machimura told reporters.
"The prime minister is not taking a lenient attitude on money in politics," he said.