OKAYAMA -- Okayama Prefectural Assembly members submitted reports with nearly identical passages on a tax payer-funded tour of New York, Washington and other U.S. cities in fiscal 2016, the Mainichi Shimbun has discovered.
Furthermore, many of the reports included passages identical to those on Wikipedia, while more than half contained the same typographical error, suggesting the assembly members may have copied and pasted sections of their reports from internet sources, and also shared the same materials.
The Okayama Prefectural Assembly has 55 seats, and 13 lawmakers -- 11 from the local chapter of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), one from the Minshu-Kenmin Club, and one independent -- went on the 10-day trip in November 2016. After they returned, they submitted reports on their observations to the assembly secretariat. All told, the trip cost the public purse about 14.46 million yen.
The Mainichi Shimbun obtained copies of the reports totaling some 1,600 pages through an access to information request. The reports included overviews of the states and cities visited, descriptions of tourist facilities, and the assembly members' personal impressions.
Out of the 13 reports, 11 were more than half identical (not including the personal impressions sections) and only one of the lawmakers submitted an entirely original document. Furthermore, identical typos were found in as many as 11 of the 13 reports.
The Mainichi also found multiple instances of phrases in state, city and facility descriptions that were the same as those found on Wikipedia or travel agency websites. For example, nine of the lawmakers' 800-character descriptions of Boston were exactly the same, and were also nearly identical to the Wikipedia entry on the city.
When asked for comment, the 13 lawmakers replied with a joint statement declaring, "As a general rule, when writing reports, we weave together publicly available facts, and it's permissible for us to quote other sources. There are no explicit rules on writing up the reports, and so there are no problems with rule violations."