• Kyodo

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A former top bureaucrat with the education ministry admitted Tuesday that the ministry had been systematically involved in seeking new jobs for retiring public servants.

An ongoing government investigation into the scandal turned up evidence that the ministry has been involved for several years in facilitating amakudari (descent from heaven), the practice of retired bureaucrats acquiring lucrative jobs in sectors they once oversaw.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who commissioned a government-wide investigation last month, pledged to formulate a response based on the probe’s findings.

Kihei Maekawa, who resigned as the ministry’s administrative vice minister last month in the wake of initial findings by a government watchdog tasked with combating amakudari, made the admission before a session of the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Tuesday.

“I accept as fact the (watchdog’s) understanding that there was a system for mediation and the human resources division was deeply involved in it,” Maekawa, 62, told the committee session.

Abe told the session, “It has to be said that this was organized. It is impermissible.”

A 2007 law reform attempted to curb amakudari, a potential vehicle for corruption, by banning serving bureaucrats from helping to secure post-retirement jobs for their colleagues.

The change, however, only prompted the ministry’s human resources division to continue the practice by calling on retired bureaucrats to act as job-hunting intermediaries, according to a report released Monday by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

“I feel my deep responsibility. I deserve to die,” Maekawa also said in his first public appearance since he stepped down on Jan. 20.

He added he had believed the mediation by retired bureaucrats would not infringe the regulations. “I deeply apologize for having undermined confidence in the government,” he said.

Monday’s report named a retired employee of the division as having inappropriately assisted with job placements since 2009.

An attached memo dating from 2013, thought likely to have originated within the ministry, outlines a plan to supply the man with an office and secretary to keep him engaged in the practice on the ministry’s behalf. This suggests the practice was systematically entrenched within the ministry by that time.

The man in question, 67-year-old Kazuo Shimanuki, told the Diet committee Tuesday he arranged job placements “as a private citizen, with the intention of helping people out.”

“I’m ashamed of my lack of awareness about the regulations,” Shimanuki said.

He said he intends to dismantle before the end of the year the Bunkyo Forum, an organization established in 2014 to negotiate new jobs for ministry officials.

An entity linked to the ministry was found to have covered office rent and a secretary’s salary for the forum at the ministry’s urging.

Several other former members of the human resources division also attended the committee session Tuesday.

Yoshinori Hakui, who headed the division in 2013, admitted that the use of retired bureaucrats to secure job placements is, “when viewed objectively, a way of circumventing the law.”

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