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As a measure to eliminate bid-rigging, the infrastructure ministry plans to abolish an elite bidding system for public works projects that was only open to nominated firms, ministry officials said Thursday.

Tenders for all the public works projects commissioned by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport Ministry will now be open to bids from almost any contractor, the officials said.

“We want to introduce that as early as possible,” vice infrastructure minister Nobuaki Sato said. The new system could take effect as early as fiscal 2007.

Pressure to ensure transparency and fairness in the bidding process rose after the Defense Facilities Administration Agency and the now-privatized Japan Highway Public Corp. were found to be involved in rigging bids for several public works projects.

It is hoped that allowing all prospective contractors to make competitive bids will help cut the cost of infrastructure projects, the officials said.

As one step, the ministry has lowered the minimum project size requirement. This has allowed any prospective contractor to bid for projects valued at 200 million yen or more since the beginning of this month.

Before last October, the minimum size for a bid was 730 million yen. That was later lowered to 300 million yen.