Osaka punishes 163 over slush-fund scams

Kyodo

The Osaka Prefectural Government announced punishment Tuesday for 163 officials in connection with slush funds, dismissing three in disgrace for embezzling public money and withholding Gov. Fusae Ota’s pay for one month.

The number of prefectural officials facing discharge over the slush-fund scam has come to seven.

A draft ordinance will be submitted to the prefectural assembly to reduce the governor’s and three deputy governors’ pay. The deputy governors are expected to see their pay cut by 50 percent for a month.

According to the prefecture’s standards used to mete out punishment, officials who have embezzled public money face dismissal. Those who diverted money for their recreational activities and other purposes face suspensions, and those who did not turn over slush funds after they were uncovered in 1997 face pay cuts.

In the latest punishments, three officials have been dismissed for embezzling and five were suspended for diverting money for other uses. Twelve face pay cuts and 48 were given warnings. Seventy-nine were admonished in writing, and 12 were warned by their supervisors.

A slush fund of about 1.3 billion yen was found in 1997. The prefecture subsequently ordered this to be repaid in January 1998.

But in December, about 1.02 million yen, apparently an unreturned portion of the slush fund, turned up at a tax office in the prefecture. Subsequently, 68.5 million yen in unreturned funds were found at 23 locations. Some of the money had been diverted for personal use and for officials’ recreational activities.

The prefecture has asked former and current officials to return a combined 96 million yen, including interest.

About 90 former officials are believed to have amassed and used slush funds, according to the prefecture. However, only one has admitted embezzling public money and returned about 23 million yen in retirement allowance.

The prefecture will ask the other former officials to share the financial burden.

Punishment over alleged slush funds at animal health offices and a medical center for people with respiratory and allergy problems was postponed because the investigation is continuing, prefectural officials said.

The prefectural government is discussing with police whether to file a criminal complaint, they said.