‘Amakudari’ scheme at ministry systemized by ’13, education chief reveals

by

Staff Writer

The education ministry had established a systematic practice for seeking new jobs for retiring bureaucrats via a retired official by around 2013, education minister Hirokazu Matsuno disclosed Monday in a preliminary report on the amakudari scandal.

“We will continue our investigation into the people involved and how they saw the situation so we can understand how the mediation worked,” Matsuno said. “I’d like to continue learning more thorough the investigation.”

Amakudari (literally “descent from heaven”) is Japan’s long-ingrained but ethically dubious practice of retired bureaucrats acquiring lucrative jobs in sectors they once oversaw.

The scandal broke last month after a government watchdog discovered the ministry’s involvement in helping a retired official secure a job at prestigious Waseda University. It also tried to cover up its involvement by preparing lists of answers to potential questions for those involved in the scheme so they could coordinate their stories.

An internal probe launchedlast month is still ongoing. So far, disciplinary action has been taken against seven senior bureaucrats. Outside experts including lawyers joined the team on Thursday.

The practice of amakudari was banned by a revision to the National Public Service Law in December 2008. It prohibits civil servants from asking companies or entities to hire retired colleagues and bans officials from searching for post-retirement jobs while in office at companies or entities they oversee.

According to the preliminary report released by Matsuno, not only were former directors of the ministry’s personnel department aware of the practice, but several former top officials, including ex-vice education minister Kihei Maekawa, knew in on it as well. Maekawa resigned last month.

The report said Kazuo Shimanuki, a former official in the personnel department, began acting as an job-hunting intermediary for retiring bureaucrats soon after his retirement in July 2009.

The report noted that the practice, which Shimanuki described as “voluntary work,” was intended to help his former colleagues and gradually expanded over time until the personnel section was so involved that it was handing over lists of names of retiring officials.

A more comprehensive system of finding retiring officials jobs via Shimanuki was established sometime around 2013, the report said.

In recent years, Shimanuki had been giving the ministry recruitment information from educational institutions and companies. The ministry, in turn, handed out the information to officials scheduled to retire.

Shimanuki found employment as a council officer for the Tokyo-based Foundation for Welfare of Educators in 2009 after leaving the ministry. He began acting as an intermediary in his spare time, according to Monday’s report.

The report also said that Shimanuki, in 2014, started Bunkyo Forum, an organization dedicated to negotiating new jobs for officials. The Bunkyo Kyokai Foundation, which used to be under the jurisdiction of the education ministry, provided the forum with office space in Tokyo.

The ministry is scheduled to release an interim report by the end of this month, with the final report expected in late March, Matsuno said.