National

Top official at government-certified building inspector took housing firm cash in return for favorable treatment

JIJI

An executive of a government-certified institution for inspecting compliance with building standards took cash from a housing company in return for favorable treatment, including filling out application forms on its behalf, it was learned Monday.

Senior officials at such inspection organizations are generally considered to have positions similar to those of public servants under the building standards law.

The infrastructure ministry is believed to be aware of the relations between the executive of the institution, located in Machida, west Tokyo, and the housing company based in Yokohama.

Improper practices related to building inspections can constitute grounds for administrative penalties.

According to sources familiar with the matter, the executive, who is in his 40s, filled out inspection application documents for multiple buildings to be constructed by the Yokohama company on its behalf and made arrangements so that the screenings would proceed smoothly according to the construction periods.

This took place from around September 2015 to July 2016, the sources said. Such documents are supposed to be prepared by applicant companies on their own.

The housing company allegedly deposited ¥100,000 to ¥200,000 in an account linked to the executive every month.

The executive is not qualified to conduct inspections but was in a position to supervise inspectors based at the organization in Machida. A person at the institution said: “I’ve seen him preparing application documents at his desk. He had a seal of the (housing company’s) president and put the seal on documents.”

Another person at the institution said, “Inspections usually take at least a week, but such checkups (for the Yokohama company) ended within the day.”

The cash remittances to the executive started before he began his career at the Machida institution, and the total amount may have reached several million yen, the sources said.

The special treatment came to light when a co-worker at the institution questioned him about the matter around January 2016.

The executive admitted that he had engaged in the practice. Around May the same year, however, he started to use a different account, held by an acquaintance, to receive money from the housing company side and continued to do favors for the firm in return, according to the sources.

The acquaintance said, “I handed 70 to 80 percent of the cash (paid monthly) to the executive.”

The infrastructure ministry conducted an on-site inspection in December 2017 after a source linked to the institution reported the matter to the Building Guidance Division of the ministry’s Housing Bureau in October 2016.

According to the source, the executive has not given a detailed explanation to the ministry, citing an investigation by police. No administrative penalty has been imposed over the case.

The executive declined to comment, saying: “I’ve sincerely cooperated with the police investigation. After consultations with my lawyer, a decision was made on a policy of not responding to media questions.”

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