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2013年7月31日 (水)

公的研究費 不正使用の徹底防止を図れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 31, 2013
All-out efforts needed to stamp out misuse of public research funds
公的研究費 不正使用の徹底防止を図れ(7月30日付・読売社説)

Many questions are being raised about how public research funds that sustain the improvement of science and technology should be spent.

A professor at the University of Tokyo’s Todai Policy Alternatives Research Institute was recently arrested by the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of swindling the university and another entity out of 21.8 million yen by reporting fictitious orders placed for research and system development.

This money included subsidies provided by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry for the application of information technology to a medical field. The prosecutors suspect the money was misappropriated for personal use.

The professor has denied the allegations. But if they are proven to be true, the professor’s actions can only be described as a betrayal of the expectations for and confidence placed in university research projects.

We urge the special prosecutors team to make every effort to get to the bottom of what happened.

The illegal use of public research funds has been pointed out as a problem for years.

According to survey results released in April by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, public funds amounting to 361 million yen were confirmed to have been misused by 46 universities and research institutes.

One of the more eye-catching methods for pocketing cash was “money depositing.”

Under this method, researchers pay bills to outside traders for fictitious transactions, entrusting the money to them. The method is used to pool money that researchers can use at their discretion and carry over budgets left unspent within a specified fiscal year to the following fiscal year.

The practice tends to create cozy relationships between traders and researchers because the former offer cooperation with the latter in the hope the transactions will end up being to their benefit.

Many researchers appear to be deeply dissatisfied that public funds should be spent within a specific fiscal year, a condition that limits their flexibility.

Needless to say, research funds come from taxpayers money. Accordingly, misappropriation of this money for an individual researcher’s convenience must never be premitted.

More funds likely on way

The government has made the promotion of science and technology a central tenet of its growth strategy. This produces the possibility that budgets related to science and technology will increase, making it even more necessary to ensure that research funds are used properly.

Government ministries and agencies have toughened punitive measures against researchers caught misusing research funds. This is a natural step to take.

The period of suspension from applying for research funds has been extended from five years to 10 years in the case of fund misuse for personal convenience. Senior researchers who supervise research can be suspended from research fund applications for up to two years under a new punitive provision if they fail to perform their necessary supervisory duties.

Universities’ lenient checking systems are also part of the problem. The education ministry formulated guidelines in 2007 for conducting a thorough audit of public funds to inspect whether goods have been delivered as ordered. But many universities still have yet to do enough in this regard.

Each university must review how they supervise research funds. The education ministry, for its part, needs to examine how the 2007 guidelines have been observed in an effort to stamp out irregularities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 30, 2013)
(2013年7月30日01時39分  読売新聞)


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