National / Politics

Abe orders measures to prevent the recurrence of public document mishandling

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday instructed his ministers to draw up measures to prevent any recurrence of the improper handling of official documents following a series of scandals that have damaged public confidence in the government.

“To secure proper management of public documents, the government will come together to thoroughly conduct a necessary review,” Abe said in a meeting of relevant ministers, stressing the need to “sincerely reflect on” the scandals, which involved the falsification and cover-up of documents by two ministries.

The instruction comes a day after the Finance Ministry released the results of its internal investigation into the falsification of documents on the heavily discounted 2016 sale of state land in Osaka Prefecture to Moritomo Gakuen, a school operator with ties to Abe’s wife, Akie.

Abe also urged the ministers to make efforts to improve government official compliance over the handling of state documents and promote the use of electronic systems to record document rewriting and prevent falsification.

Hiroshi Kajiyama, the minister in charge of regulatory reform, said in a news conference that the government will interview officials of the finance and defense ministries, both of which have been embroiled in the scandals, and draw up countermeasures next month.

Finance Minister Taro Aso said he will voluntarily return part of his salary to take responsibility for the matter and the ministry said it is punishing 20 officials, including former senior bureaucrat Nobuhisa Sagawa, who has been recognized as having “set the direction” of the document tampering.

The Abe administration has also been under fire due to the cover-up of activity logs for Ground Self-Defense Force troops in Iraq between 2004 and 2006. The Defense Ministry said it found the records after having claimed they had been discarded.

In a report released last month following an internal probe, the ministry cited insufficient communication among officials involved as one of the causes of the cover-up, but stopped short of concluding the GSDF had systemically concealed the documents. It reprimanded 17 people over the case.

The government is considering establishing a new post in the Cabinet Office that would oversee how ministries and agencies should manage their documents, while also setting up a special section at each government office to handle the issue, sources close to the matter said.