TADANOUMI, Japan -- Billions of dollars meant to help Japan recover from its devastating tsunami went to government projects that had little or nothing to do with the disaster, a new spending review shows.
Japanese politicians have questioned why millions went to a factory that makes contact lenses, or why money was spent to fend off environmental activists opposed to whaling, or other projects in areas far removed from the tsunami. Local media have dug up numerous examples of dubious spending, from renovating government buildings outside the disaster zones to job training in prisons.
All in all, government documents show roughly one out of every four dollars budgeted for reconstruction went to unrelated projects, and more than half has not been allocated at all, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. An outside analysis by recovery expert Yoshimitsu Shiozaki found the same pattern of spending on projects outside the disaster zones.
The funds were originally earmarked solely for the stricken areas, but the government ultimately loosened the rules, saying the money could also be used to bolster the economy and prepare for future disasters nationwide. The reconstruction money was up for grabs at a time when government agencies were downsizing, making it a tempting spigot of cash.