WAKAYAMA – The Municipal Development Corp. in Wakayama Prefecture has been spending millions of yen in lottery proceeds to send local mayors on luxurious overseas sightseeing trips since 1998, according to officials of a quasi-public company.
Internal documents obtained Sunday by Kyodo News show that 7 million yen was spent on a nine-day tour to North America in fiscal 2003, or about 800,000 yen for each participant. It included stays at luxury hotels and visits to tourist spots like Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building in New York.
Three town and village mayors, four town and village assembly chairmen and two members of the development corporation joined the tour last November.
About 40 percent of lottery proceeds are allocated to local governments to be spent on public works and other purposes.
The group said the trips were “to promote local development with an international viewpoint,” citing reasons such as studying barrier-free measures at tourist spots.
An eight-day trip to Australia is scheduled to begin Saturday for eight participants, including town mayors and town assembly chairmen.
“We think the overseas observation tours are useful for administration and worthwhile,” a representative of the company said. “But there is currently no plan from fiscal 2005 due to municipal mergers.”
The lottery is issued jointly by the governments of the 47 prefectures and the 13 largest ordinance-designated cities. By law, 39.9 percent of lottery proceeds go to these local governments and are to be spent on public works.
In the case of Wakayama Prefecture in fiscal 2003, 720 million yen from the proceeds of the Summer Jumbo and Autumn Jumbo lotteries was allocated to the Municipal Development Corp.
The corporation kept the summer jumbo portion of about 480 million yen as operation funds, from which the 7 million yen was used for the overseas tour. The autumn jumbo portion was distributed to about 50 local branches in the prefecture.
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