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Municipalities charge miscalculations cost ¥ mega millions in lost revenues

Date Posted: 2007-06-28

Computer software glitches, software with erroneous calculation programs, and indifference by the central government apparently will cost Okinawa cities, towns and villages ¥ million in subsidy money.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is responsible for providing subsidies for special adjustments to peoples’ health insurance, with payments coming from Tokyo down to the individual city, town or village offices. The problem revealed this week is that the Ministry has been miscalculating the payments, and that affects 32 local governments. The shortages are described as “in the ¥ multi-million range.”

The problems—and resulting underpayments to local governments—date back eight years, to when the Ministry began using new computer software systems. The local governments followed instructions issued by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, but the numbers never added up. Okinawa municipalities are now demanding the government reimburse them for the shortfalls.

Urasoe City was first to uncover the mistakes, which were caused in part by the central government using four different companies for its computer work. Those companies didn’t understand the calculations, and the Ministry in 2006 fixed the problem. Urasoe City says it is missing ¥200 million over the six-year-period of underpayments.

The 32 local governments are demanding the government pay up, but the Ministry says “It’s difficult to give state money back to eight years ago. Because it is subsidy money,” a ministry spokesman says, “and every year’s budget has come and gone, and is governed by law, the past subsidy money cannot be given back.” The Ministry insists it is “concerned, too” but refuses to address the impact on the local communities. At the same time, it acknowledges “something affecting the people because of the subsidy miscalculations was wrong.” The Ministry says “we’ll check and investigate.”

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