District Court orders Osaka to name those wined, dined

OSAKA — The Osaka District Court ruled Mar. 25 in favor of a citizens’ group seeking greater transparency in administrative spending, ordering the Osaka Municipal Government to disclose the names of those who were wined and dined by the city with taxpayers’ money.

A local citizens’ group filed a lawsuit in July 1992 demanding that the city government make a full disclosure of all documents on municipal expenses for dinner meetings held between July 1988 and March 1992. After an advisory panel urged the city to partially disclose such documents a year ago, amid rising nationwide criticism over the use of taxpayers’ money for wining and dinning, the city released 450 documents last April.

Although the dates, locations, costs and the purposes of the meetings were disclosed, the city did not identify participants other than municipal officials who attended the meetings, saying disclosure of such information would violate the privacy of those who were wined and dined. According to documents released so far, the city spent 15.9 million yen on about 240 meetings. In one occasion, the city spent 320,000 yen on a meeting at a Chinese restaurant that was attended by 29 people. In 1989, a scandal involving the use of taxpayers’ money by city officials for wining and dining came to light, and the city forced 28 officials to return a total of 11 million yen.

Last year, 11 top officials repaid about 20 million yen spent in the 1989 scandal. Some documents on those municipal expenses were also released. But the citizens’ group continued the lawsuit, saying that it cannot be satisfied with partial disclosure.

After the ruling, Takashi Kabata, one of the plaintiffs, said he welcomes the court’s decision because it backs residents’ demands for greater transparency in administrative spending.