EDITORIAL: Stench of corruption lingers over Futenma relocation plan
An Okinawa construction company that won a public works contract related to the U.S. military base relocation plan in Nago donated 900,000 ($7,310) yen to six candidates in the 2014 Lower House election.
The six all won their single-seat districts in the prefecture. A political donation linked to a national election made by a central government contractor represents an illegal act banned by the Public Offices Election Law.
The company won a contract to build an embankment on Nago’s Henoko district shore, where the government plans to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan, also in Okinawa Prefecture.
The Asahi Shimbun has learned that the contractor also made donations to candidates for local government chief elections in the past.
These dubious campaign donations inevitably raise suspicions. They suggest that the company paid the cash in the hope of building collusive ties with politicians to gain favor with regard to government contracts for the gigantic public works airbase project.
Both the politicians and the company should, of course, start behaving with greater integrity.
This is not the first time that shady cash payments related to the Futenma relocation plan have come to light.
It has also been disclosed that three members of a government panel to study the project’s environmental impact, including the committee chairman, received donations totaling 11 million yen from contractors undertaking the construction work.
Another committee member received remuneration from a corporation affiliated with one of the contractors.
The central government set up the panel to discuss the project from a scientific viewpoint and inform them about developments in related projects.
The fact is that the experts tasked to assess the environmental impact of the construction works received cash from the companies that carry out the works.
The government claims the panel has been discussing issues in a fair and neutral manner. But it’s hard to believe the companies that paid the money expected nothing in return.
Refusing to receive money or other gifts from any interested party is the minimum ethical requirement for members of such a committee.
There has also been a case of questionable payments with regard to the project by the government itself.
At the end of last month, the administration decided to provide state subsidies to the three districts of Kushi, Henoko and Toyohara in Nago, collectively known as the “Three Kube Districts.”
The three districts, which are located near the site where the new military facilities are being built, will each receive up to 13 million yen in state subsidies for the current fiscal year.
The Three Kube Districts, however, are not official administrative units like Tokyo’s 23 wards. They are more like neighborhood associations.
The decision represents an unusual move by the central government. It will supply the public funds directly, bypassing the authorities of Okinawa Prefecture and Nago, whose chiefs are opposed to the government’s plan to relocate the Futenma air base to Henoko.
The government seems to have lost sight of administrative decency and fairness in a rush to build the new base.
Actually, there have been a number of cases across the nation in which questionable cash payments related to public works projects have divided communities.
It should be noted that many local construction companies struggling to stay afloat depend on public works projects for survival.
Even so, politicians and bureaucrats should strictly prohibit themselves from getting involved in any opaque or questionable cash payments. This kind of shady money only deepens distrust among local populations, undermines the arena for honest public debate and causes divisions within communities.
For both advocates and opponents of the Futenma relocation plan, fair and above-board procedures for related decisions and measures must be the minimum precondition for discussions on this issue.