In the latest in a series of bold moves to right the many wrongs at the contaminated Toyosu market site, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Friday announced a major reshuffle of several officials responsible.
Koike said she will remove Ryoichi Kishimoto from his position as the head of the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market. He has headed the team since 2014.
Akinori Muramatsu, an official in the metropolitan government’s Bureau of Industrial and Labor Affairs, will replace Kishimoto on Saturday, Koike said.
She said during a regularly scheduled news conference at the metropolitan headquarters in Shinjuku Ward that the move was part of disciplinary measures amid speculation of a cover-up in the Toyosu fiasco.
“I want him to feel and take responsibility,” Koike said, explaining her decision to move Kishimoto to the General Affairs Bureau, where he will continue to work on the market relocation project.
Koike said she hopes the changes will help unearth the truth behind decisions made by officials supervising the project, as well as ensure safety and provide support for wholesalers awaiting the launch of the new market, which will replace the world famous site at Tsukiji.
The governor also said that earlier in the day she had received from her predecessor, Shintaro Ishihara, an “uncooperative” response concerning his involvement in the project.
According to Koike, Ishihara only said that he did not remember or was not aware of any of the decisions.
“If he knows something but won’t reveal it because it would be inconvenient for him, I don’t think it will help us to learn the truth,” Koike said.
Ishihara selected the relocation site in 2007 and oversaw initial preparations for the move until 2012.
Koike also said she will consider penalizing officials with pay cuts or other measures if she can confirm their misconduct or responsibility for problematic decisions.
She revealed last week that documents and reports compiled by members of the relocation project contained incorrect information.
Reports recently disclosed by the metropolitan government showed that the plan was modified several times, suggesting a lack of communication between sections involved in the project and ultimately leading to the failure to ensure that safety measures recommended by experts had been put into place.
During Friday’s news conference, Koike did not rule out the possibility that data could have been fabricated and that some officials may have had knowledge about it.
She also said she has reorganized the key group of officials responsible for the relocation project and created new posts to supervise it. She has entrusted oversight of the project to Deputy Gov. Tatsumi Ando.
“I hope the new members will provide a new perspective,” Koike said. “Disciplinary steps are needed … but we also need to move forward.”
Shoddy construction has sparked safety concerns, as concrete-walled chambers have seen groundwater welling up, bringing with it toxins such as arsenic, cyanide and benzene.
The soil at the Toyosu site was heavily contaminated with toxic chemicals left behind by the Tokyo Gas Co. plant that once stood on the site.
The metropolitan government advanced recommendations from technology experts to place a 4.5-meter-thick layer of clean soil at the site. But it turned out that key facilities to be used by seafood and fruit and vegetable dealers have nothing beneath them but concrete-walled basements.
The new market was originally slated to open Nov. 7, but Koike has canceled that plan.
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