• Kyodo

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The Gifu Prefectural Government announced disciplinary action Thursday against 4,421 of its 7,721 employees for allegedly amassing a 1.7 billion yen slush fund over 12 years from 1992 to 2003, mainly to pay for wining and dining by officials and labor union activities.

Four bureaucrats were fired for their part in the scam. Of those receiving lesser punishments, roughly one-fourth were sanctioned under the local public service law, receiving suspensions, pay cuts or admonitions. The remainder were given less severe warnings or reprimands, under internal prefectural rules.

Gifu Gov. Hajime Furuta, who announced the punishments, took a 50 percent pay cut for 12 months.

The wrongdoing came to light in July when Furuta admitted in a prefectural assembly session that a slush fund had been amassed while his predecessor, Taku Kajiwara, was in office.

In fiscal 1994 alone, the fund totaled about 466 million yen and involved almost all government sections. In fiscal 1999, then Vice Gov. Tsuneo Morimoto issued an order to pool the funds in the workers’ union.

In late July, the prefecture set up an outside panel led by lawyer Toshiko Haba, asking it to investigate the slush fund, look at ways of reimbursing the misappropriated funds to the government, and suggest measures to prevent such misdeeds in the future.

On Sept. 1, the panel released results of its probe. The bureaucrats had amassed about 1.7 billion yen over a 12-year period through fiscal 2003, the panel found.

The panel, made up of three lawyers, urged prefectural officials to return 1.92 billion yen, including interest, to local government coffers.

The prefecture has asked Kajiwara, Morimoto and six other retired officials to return a total of 867 million yen.

But Kajiwara, now an Upper House member, said Monday he and the seven officials will return only 10 percent of that amount, or 87 million yen — 30 million yen from Kajiwara and 57 million yen from the others.

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