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Nago fishermen wonder who got money for their job

Date Posted: 2003-06-28

A scandal is brewing at Nago Fishermen's Association over compensation that was paid to its members for participating in an extermination campaign of reef-damaging crown-of-thorns starfish back in 2000. According to investigation by the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper, of the 177 members who were paid, 47 got the money without participating.

The incident came to light when an upset association member tipped a Ryukyu Shimpo reporter who then subsequently launched an investigation. He was able to obtain the list of the members who got paid for participating in the campaign. The list contained the names of 177 people who had collected a total of 3,320,000 for their efforts. The money came from a government subsidy, and was disbursed through Nago City officials.

The whistleblower claims that 800,000 of the money went to 47 people who had not even shown up at any of the campaign events. He and several many of his friends are upset and want to know where the money actually went and why.

Shintoku Noborikawa, the current chairman of Nago Fishermen's Association says he knows nothing about the matter. "This job was done when my predecessor was at the helm. Our books show nothing about this job as the money was a government subsidy to cover the direct costs of those who volunteered. We only have a list with signatures of those who received the money."

Nago City staff that was in charge of disbursing the money, and who also oversaw the operation says that the former chairman of the association actually handed out the money. "I was checking that people were doing what they said they were. But it was over 170 people so naturally I could not count everyone and had to take the association's chairman's word for it. I gave all of the 3,320,000 to him and he personally disbursed the cash," he said. While officials point fingers at each other, the members who volunteered still are waiting for answers to their questions.

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