The Foreign Ministry will increase the number of inspection officials in the wake of a scandal in which a former diplomat was indicted on suspicion of defrauding the government out of public funds, a senior ministry official said.
Foreign Minister Yohei Kono made the proposal, aimed at reinforcing internal accounting checks at overseas establishments, at a Thursday meeting with Senior Vice Foreign Minister Seishiro Eto and three parliamentary foreign secretaries, who backed the plan.
Kono proposed increasing the number of directors general for inspecting the ministry from the current one to between three and five as well as assigning private citizens or former bureaucrats as chief inspectors, who are dispatched overseas, the official said.
The position of director general for inspection is currently vacant.
The ministers and secretaries also agreed to publicize the final report to be issued by an in-house committee aimed at investigating the fraud and suspected embezzlement, and how it was allowed to occur, and coming up with ways to prevent a recurrence, the official said.
The committee is headed by Senior Vice Foreign Minister Kiyohiro Araki, who did not attend Thursday’s meeting because he was on an official trip to the United States. In terms of appointing the ministry’s director general for inspection, Kono told the meeting he would prefer an individual fit for the job rather than choosing from staff on a waiting list.
In the scandal, Katsutoshi Matsuo, who was indicted at the end of March, allegedly used the government’s discretionary funds for personal purposes between 1993 and 1999 when he headed a ministry division in charge of arranging prime ministers’ overseas visits.
Matsuo’s case has shed light on the use of secret funds for diplomacy overseas, with testimony from some diplomats and ministry staff saying the money is being used to entertain visiting Diet members and bureaucrats. The ministry dismissed Matsuo and filed a criminal complaint against him on suspicion of embezzlement with the Tokyo police in late January.
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