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Waste treatment plant still attracts scandal

Date Posted: 2005-02-18

A waste treatment plant under construction in Haebaru Town continues to be a magnet for scandal and bad publicity.

The Naha City Assembly is being pounded amidst accusations of wrongdoing on the part of some of its members. The Okinawa Prefecture Police are investigating charges of bribery in connection with construction of the new facility, which will serve both Naha City and Haebaru Town.

Haebaru Town Assembly members are being tarnished by the scandal as well. Already, several have been arrested on bribery charges. Construction companies seeking the lucrative contract are alleged to have paid members of both assemblies to gain their votes. Meanwhile, construction continues on the much needed waste management facility and incinerator.

This is the latest in a series of black eyes for the Assemblies. An earlier scandal erupted last December. The difference, say observers, is the money trail. In the December case, Assembly members were soliciting graft payments from five companies seeking the construction contract.

Kiikou Nakamoto, 56, has had his hands in both scandals. In the earlier incident, he was playing off the five companies bidding in hopes of extracting money from them. He was actively involved in bringing the five companies, which had initially been excluded from the bidding for various technical reasons, back into contention. Today, he’s accused of playing the other side.

The Naha City Assemblyman is believed to have paid off a couple of Haebaru Town Assembly members to vote his way on a specific company. “Hey guys, I have one construction company already (chosen) for the job. Could you please try to have other companies not come for the bidding,” he told them. “Tell them a bid a high price, so they don’t win over my recommended company.” Officials say the two Haebaru officials each received ¥1,000,000 for their efforts.

Upcoming elections in a time of tight economies and budget shortfalls in local governments are said to be driving public officials to try manipulating contract activity in favor of those who can bring votes to specific Assemblymen seeking reelection.

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