It was absolute high comedy in the Diet yesterday as Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Matsuoka Toshikatsu tried to avoid asking questions in the House of Councillors Budget Committee about his utility bills. Specifically, how his office in the House of Representatives Office Building (and if you have ever been to a Diet member's office, you know how tiny those damn things are) managed, according to Matsuoka's accounts, to run up a 5 million yen tab in water/sewer/gas/electricity in 2005.
The first problem is, of course, that all utilities are provided free of charge to the offices of Diet members. Indeed, there is no gas, electricity or any other sort of meter in front of the Diet member's office that a meter maid could read in order to determine what the Diet member, his/her political secretary and the two administrative secretaries were using.
The second problem is, of course, 5 million yen is a lot of water, electricity and gas. As Mino Monta pointed out on his morning program, 5 million yen is equal to to the total water/sewerage/gas and electricity bill of a typical family of four (and remember, this includes washing machines, dishes for three meals a day for four persons and a daily ofuro) for NINETEEN YEARS!
Unsurprisingly, Ogawa Toshio of the Democratic Party sort of went to town at Matsuoka's expense:
"You say you have special heating arrangements. What, do you have like a hundred electric heaters in there?"
"We all have a faucet in our offices for the tea and coffee. Do have another faucet or other water connections?"
"Since water, heat and electricity are provided at no charge to Diet offices, why do you have this on your expense report? This is accounting fraud, isn't it?