National

Pressure mounts for Kepco to be more transparent over gift-giving scandal

Kyodo

Calls are growing in political circles — both locally and nationally — for Kansai Electric Power Co. to reveal the full extent of the graft related to the gift giving scandal and one of its nuclear plants that forced its chairman and other executives to step down.

Even as the company’s board endorsed Wednesday resignations by Chairman Makoto Yagi and Vice President Ikuo Morinaka, many are dissatisfied, saying the company must take greater responsibility including a complete reshuffle of its management team.

President Shigeki Iwane said he will step down the same day a third-party panel releases results of an investigation into the gift scandal.

Twenty people including Yagi, 69, and Iwane, 66, at Kansai Electric received a total of ¥318.45 million ($2.9 million) worth of gifts from Eiji Moriyama, the late deputy mayor of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, that were related to work at the plant there.

The government of Takahama said it will set up an investigation committee by the end of this month to question former town officials who knew Moriyama from the late 1970s to early 1980s.

It will look into the level of Moriyama’s influence inside the town hall and whether other gifts had been accepted.

“I thought that (Yagi) would resign sooner or later,” Chiaki Kodama, 30, a town assembly member who supports investigating the matter.

“It is natural for (Yagi) to resign. Other senior officials should also take responsibility,” said a local male manager of a restaurant in his 40s.

Top officials for the city of Osaka, Kansai Electric’s largest shareholder, agree.

“It is not just one chairman’s responsibility,” said Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui, calling for a sweeping management reshuffle.

Prime Minister Abe also said on Wednesday it is “crucial for the full story to be completely clarified by having a third party look into it (the scandal).”

But the Liberal Democratic Party to which he belongs is pushing back against opposition members’ suggestion to question Yagi and six other officials before the Diet.

“We want them to explain clearly. They may have profited from the public utilities’ charges and our taxes,” said Kazuhiro Haraguchi of the Democratic Party for the People.

As the fall-out from the scandal continues, safety work is taking place at two nuclear reactors in Takahama in preparation for restarts.

“This case has given rise to doubts about nuclear plants’ safety,” said Yukihiro Higashiyama, a representative of a civic organization against the restart of Takahama’s nuclear power plant. “I request it to be decommissioned.”