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Tokyo Tech News

Accounting Measures for the Prevention of Improper Use of Research Funds

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Published: March 10, 2015

Tokyo Institute of Technology is committed to learning from the recent incident of improper use of research funds by a former Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology professor and others. In order to build a robust research environment in which misconduct cannot occur, the Institute's entire faculty and staff will pursue strategies to prevent improper use of research funds and work to regain public trust. A series of preventative measures will be implemented, including enhanced inspection of delivered goods, as detailed below. In principle, the measures will be trialed from January 2015, with full-scale implementation in April 2015.

Reinforcement of procedures at the Inspection Center to prevent factitious deliveries

  • Delivered goods will be marked with individual stickers.
  • Delivery logbooks will be placed at the Inspection Center and other delivery points. Parties delivering goods will be required to record their name, company name, delivery number and other details in the logbook, which will receive an inspection stamp along with the delivery notice (trial implementation completed).
  • Rules for inspecting the provision of special services (such as development and creation of databases, programs, and digital content, and maintenance and inspection of equipment) will be reviewed and new requirements established, such as submission of photographs taken before and during the service provision.
  • Suppliers will be subject to exit controls.

Clarification of responsibility for matters such as justifying purpose of orders

  • The faculty-initiated purchase order system will be reviewed.
    • Firstly, the maximum value for any order placed by a faculty member will be reduced from "less than 1,000,000 yen" to "less than 500,000 yen" (for implementation in January 2015).
  • Standard purchase order logbooks and sheets will be introduced across the Institute in order to clarify that the person who actually places the order and is in charge of the budget details (individual faculty member, etc.) has financial responsibility for the order, including compensation liability as well as responsibility for justifying the choice of supplier and appropriateness of purchase price.
    • The purchase order logbook will be checked quarterly by the person in charge of the relevant budget details to confirm how research funds are being spent. This person will sign the logbook and submit it to the budget supervisor (Dean, Director, etc.).
    • The Institute's standard purchase order form will be used for all orders placed with external suppliers. The person in charge of the relevant budget details must specify the source of funds when placing an order and affix a seal on the order form.

Preventing suppliers' complicity in misconduct

  • A review will be conducted of the requirements for obtaining pledges from suppliers, and the content thereof.
    • The current requirement for obtaining a pledge for "any contract valued at 1,000,000 yen or more" will be changed to "all suppliers engaged from now on."
    • The pledge's content will be reviewed and expanded from the current "prohibition on misconduct" to include "cooperation with requests from the Institute to submit necessary paperwork, etc."
    • Suppliers that fail to submit the pledge will not be used.
  • In the event that an irregularity is detected in ordering patterns, such as a high concentration of orders with a specific supplier, the supplier will be required to submit documentation and provide an explanation.
  • The period for suspension of dealings with suppliers involved in misconduct will be extended from the current "up to 9 months" to "up to 24 months" (for implementation in January 2015).

Proper management of purchased goods

  • Even when classified as consumables (value of less than 100,000 yen), personal computers that are readily convertible to cash will be treated as low-value equipment and assigned equipment registration numbers (for implementation in January 2015).

In October 2007, the Institute introduced a delivery inspection system and started requiring cross-inspection of delivered goods valued at 10,000 yen or more. Reinforcement of inspection systems has continued with the establishment of an Inspection Center in August 2009 to enable further separation of authority for inspection and ordering, and with the extension of the Center's operations to all goods deliveries in January 2013 (for full-scale implementation in April 2013). The failure to detect misconduct despite these measures suggests that the systems for checking at each stage of the process - including order, inspection, and delivery - are still inadequate. The Institute takes this failure very seriously.

The reforms outlined above are designed to ensure that the entire process of ordering, inspection, and delivery is conducted openly and with appropriate cross-supervision among faculty and staff, in a fair and accountable manner.

The Institute will continue to pursue reforms in the management of education and research funds, aided by rigorous, objective inspection and guidance from certified public accountants, attorneys, and other external experts.

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