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30% of major local gov'ts failed to fine dormant nonprofit groups for no activity reports

A document that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government sends to incorporated nonprofit organizations that have failed to submit a legally required annual activity report is seen in this photo taken at the metropolitan government headquarters in the capital's Shinjuku Ward on Dec. 18, 2018. (Mainichi/Taiji Mukohata)

TOKYO -- Twenty-two, or more than 30 percent, of 47 prefectural governments and the authorities of the 20 ordinance-designated major cities have failed to slap dormant incorporated nonprofit organizations with non-penal fines for failing to submit annual activity reports, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has found.

Even though prefectural and municipal governments are authorized to revoke the certification of incorporated nonprofit groups if these organizations neglect to submit such reports over a long period of time, 10 of these local governments have not taken such measures. The survey shows that the ratio of dormant organizations to all incorporated nonprofit groups is higher in areas where local governments have not fined the organizations, and experts are urging an improvement in the supervision of such bodies under their jurisdiction.

The Mainichi Shimbun conducted the survey from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 on the 67 major prefectural and ordinance-designated cities' governments concerning the incorporated nonprofit groups under their supervision over a five-year period up to fiscal 2017. Responses were received from all governments surveyed.

The Act on Promotion of Specified Non-profit Activities requires incorporated nonprofit organizations to submit an annual report on their activities. Organizations that fail to comply can be punished with a fine of up to 200,000 yen as an administrative penalty. Such fines are imposed after local bodies notify the court that an organization under their supervision has failed to submit the activity reports. It also stipulates that local governments can revoke their certification of incorporated nonprofit groups if they do not submit activity reports for at least three years.

Of the 67 local governments, 45 said that they have sent notifications to local courts before. The remaining 22 answered that they have never notified courts, even though officials were aware that some nonprofit organizations had not submitted the reports. As a result, none of the groups in these administrative districts have apparently been punished. As for the reason for not notifying local courts, 17 of the 22 local governments said that they had asked the organizations to submit the annual activity reports via mail notices.

In addition, out of all the respondents, 10 local governments had never revoked a certification while knowing that some of the incorporated nonprofit groups under their supervision did not submit activity reports for over three years.

The outcome of the latest survey and an earlier Mainichi poll conducted on Tokyo's 23 wards and the 20 government ordinance-designated city governments suggests some correlation between local bodies' supervision and the number of dormant incorporated nonprofit organizations.

None of these groups have been slapped with a fine in the central Japanese city of Shizuoka, the city of Chiba east of Tokyo or the southern Japan city of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture -- where the ratio of dormant organizations to all incorporated nonprofit groups is above 20 percent. The Kitakyushu Municipal Government has never revoked certification of an incorporated nonprofit organization.

The city of Hiroshima in western Japan and the cities of Saitama and Kawasaki, north and south of Tokyo, respectively, where the ratio of dormant organizations is less than 10 percent, have all revoked the title of such dormant groups and referred them to courts for a fine.

Mainichi Shimbun reports have revealed that some dormant incorporated nonprofit groups have been used for crimes or handed over to others, prompting a group of 140 Diet legislators to meet on the subject of nonprofit groups and the Cabinet Office to begin considering countermeasures to combat the phenomenon.

(Japanese original by Taiji Mukohata and Tetsuro Hatakeyama, Tokyo Special Reports Group)

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