About 700 firms that have hired retired officials from Japan Highway Public Corp. received annual orders totaling more than 1 trillion yen from four road-related semigovernmental bodies in each of the past five years, it was learned Friday.

Writer Naoki Inose, a key member of a government panel discussing the privatization of toll expressway operators, also revealed that the more retired Japan Highway officials a company hires, the more orders the firm receives.

Such findings indicate the existence of nepotism between “family” companies and the controversial semigovernmental bodies, Inose argued. The four bodies are Japan Highway Public Corp., Metropolitan Expressway Public Corp., Hanshin Expressway Public Corp. and Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority.

Among companies that won research contracts from Japan Highway, each of those that hired one ex-Japan Highway official received orders totaling 420 million yen in fiscal 2001 on average, according to Inose. With two ex-officials, contracts totaled 560 million yen; with three, 690 million yen; with four, 990 million yen; and with more than five, 1.25 billion yen, he said.

The practice of accepting retired officials from a public body is widely known as “amakudari,” or descent from heaven.

The practice has come under harsh public criticism for building cozy relationships between public bodies and private companies.

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