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Cabinet Office begins probe into dormant NPOs in response to Mainichi report

The Central Government Building No. 4 in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward that houses the Cabinet Office is seen in this file photo taken on April 26, 2017. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- The Cabinet Office has begun a probe into dormant incorporated nonprofit organizations (NPOs), their possible wrongdoing and how they are overseen by prefectural and municipal governments, people familiar with the matter said.

The government's move, the first of its kind, come in response to a series of reports by the Mainichi Shimbun exposing criminal and other abuses of such bodies, which are originally designed to promote public good. The Cabinet office will compile the results of its investigation as early as mid-January and consider countermeasures to rectify the situation.

The probe targets all of the nation's 47 prefectures and 20 designated cities each with a population of half a million or more people. A Mainichi investigation has already revealed that some local governments are unwilling to take punitive measures against dormant NPOs, a portion of which are used in crimes or are subject to illicit transactions.

In the 23 wards of Tokyo and the 20 designated cities, across Japan, 2,138 NPOs, or 12 percent of the total number, were dormant when the Mainichi checked on their status and reported on them in November 2018. Although there is no official definition of dormancy, organizations were judged to be dormant when they failed to submit required annual reports about their activities or when there were no entries on their activities or expenditure in submitted reports.

The Cabinet Office survey, which began in early December last year, uses a similar approach to determine dormancy. It sent out questionnaires asking about the total number of dormant NPOs, local authorities' responses to them, whether those bodies are linked to illicit or criminal activities, and challenges and necessities faced by the prefectures and the major cities.

"We would like to identify the challenges by listening to local governments that are actually overseeing (those NPOs)," explained a Cabinet Office official in charge of the survey.

The Cabinet Office intends to cooperate with a group of some 140 lawmakers from the ruling and opposition camps handling NPO issues to incorporate the survey results in discussion on possible solutions to the problem.

(Japanese original by Taiji Mukohata, Special Reports Group)

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