• Kyodo

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A Japanese government panel is investigating claims that senior education ministry bureaucrats lobbied a prestigious university to give a retired colleague a job.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Wednesday that the Cabinet Office’s re-employment oversight committee is “continuing an inquiry” involving the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The committee was established after the law on public servants was revised in 2007 to curb the practice of amakudari (“descent from heaven”), in which retired bureaucrats land cushy jobs at entities they formerly supervised. The practice has been criticized as leading to corruption.

The committee can issue opinions and recommend punishing those involved if it finds the law has been violated. Since its formation, it has not issued a single recommendation.

According to a source close to the ministry, its human resources division gave information to Tokyo’s Waseda University about the director general of the ministry’s higher education bureau, who was hired by the university after retiring in 2015.

The source said the committee is conducting hearings with retired and current senior bureaucrats into whether this action may have violated the law on public servants.

The probe may include a broader investigation into whether the ministry has been systemically involved in the practice of revolving-door re-employment.

According to the source, the committee plans to compile its findings on Thursday and communicate them to the ministry.

“We want to wait for the results of the inquiry, but if such cases as reported in the media have actually occurred, it would be extremely regrettable,” Suga said.

Asked about how the bureaucrats implicated in the probe might be handled, Suga said it is best to deal with the matter “so as to not generate suspicion among the public.”

The ministry’s human resources division declined to comment on the probe Wednesday, saying it is “not in a position” to do so.

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