Japan’s government has admitted that it spent around $1 billion set aside for helping people whose lives were affected by the violent tsunami in 2011 on projects such as turtle observation and promoting cheese and wine events.
There is no proof of corruption, but the statement is embarrassing for Japan’s officials, who have previously admitted the country’s whaling program, contested at an international level, was being financed by money set aside for tsunami recovery, the international press comments.
In Japan’s far south-west, around Y3 million was spent employing 10 people to count sea turtles as they came ashore.
“We only counted sea turtles and were not required to move eggs to safe places or do other things. It was not even for sea turtles, let alone those hit by the disaster,” one of the 10 people said, according to the Japanese media.
The welfare ministry said money was used well, given the circumstances.
“Those who were hit by the disaster were widely spread across the nation at that time and supply chains [for manufacturing industries] were disrupted,” said an official at the ministry.
Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said staff were checking how the money had been used.
“After seeing the results, we will take firm measures with a view to stricter rules on use,” he told reporters.
Other projects supported by disaster money included the production of a restaurant guidebook in Aichi, central Japan, and the advertising of a cartoon mascot that promotes Yamaguchi in the far west of Honshu.