Tokyo Gov. pledges to win back public faith amid fish market debacle, Olympics funding probe

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/9/28 18:09:53

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Wednesday that it was imperative that the metropolitan government win back public trust amid an ongoing debacle regarding the relocation of the capital's iconic Tsukiji fish market, the move of which has been plagued by toxic chemicals at the new site being covered up as well as a potentially dodgy bidding process.

In her first policy speech before the Tokyo assembly since winning the election in July, Koike resolved to determine exactly where the responsibility lies.

"I will make clear where the responsibility lies, who, when, where and what decisions were made to cover up the insufficient soil layer," Koike said, adding that, "It must be said that the metropolitan government has lost the trust of Tokyo's residents over this issue."

A new site for the fish market currently located in Tsukiji has been under construction on an artificial island in the Toyosu region of the city.

Since 2011 decontamination work has been carried out there as toxic substances were detected, including reports of cyanide and arsenic at the site, which was previously home to a gas plant.

Earlier this month a layer of soil for an embankment designed to prevent the new site from the effects of potentially toxic substances was found to be too thin due to concrete structures built under the main chambers of the new market, with the related work found to have not followed experts' recommendations.

Koike demanded her staff to provide sufficient answers to the protracted issue by Friday and has, in light of the issue, officially delayed the planned relocation date of the fish market from November, until water samples have been analyzed and the results made available in January next year.

Earlier on Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said it was the legal responsibility of the minister of agriculture and fisheries to rigorously evaluate the situation prior to granting a permit for the new market to be opened.

Abe said the Tokyo metropolitan government, which has been in charge of setting up the market, must take full responsibility with such ongoing matters.

However, Koike blasted the government's lax handling of the situation and suggested that there had been a cover up, as those with knowledge of the matter have all denied involvement, which has led to a monumental backlash from the tax paying public.

Koike is also currently probing the building process connected to the constriction of three of the new wholesale market's main buildings in Toyosu, due to ballooning prices for construction contracts.

The metropolitan government's projected prices were initially pegged at around 63 billion yen (626 million US dollars) following the first round of bidding in November 2013.

But all three tenders were subsequently retracted from the three joint venture firms, which are backed by major construction companies.

Citing difficulties securing staff according to Japan's public broadcaster NHK, the companies also said that the metropolitan government's lower target prices did not match their own.

A second round of bidding saw the prices balloon by 60 percent just three months later, with the total project slated to cost around 1.03 billion US dollars, with each firm winning a contract at prices almost equivalent to those tendered.

Koike maintained that as material and labor costs could not have skyrocketed in such a short time, that the way the officials assigned to apportion public funds for the costs for the development may have been unwise and not thrifty as the Tokyo government is well funded. She vowed to get to the bottom of the matter.

Local media also reported on Wednesday that Koike might suspend construction work related to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, pending the outcome of a funding probe.

Posted in: Olympics

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