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The recent arrest of a former Fukushima governor shows that bid rigging involving local government heads and officials continues. Local governments must devise a new system for public-works projects that ensures transparency in the bidding process.

Former Fukushima Gov. Eisaku Sato was arrested on suspicion of receiving a bribe from a subcontractor of a 20.6 billion yen dam project. Mr. Sato and his younger brother are suspected of having rigged the bidding so that a joint venture led by a major construction firm would receive the order for the project.

The subcontractor, at the instruction of the construction firm, bought a piece of land from a firm run by the governor’s brother at a cost higher than the market price. Investigators think that the difference between the price the firm paid and the market price was a bribe. The governor resigned in late September after his brother and a former head of the prefectural government’s public-works department were arrested.

What this case has disclosed is a collusion between companies, on the one hand, and a governor and his brother, who acted as the governor’s proxy and whom the companies approached.

Mr. Sato’s long stay in power is an important factor. He was first elected as governor in 1988. When he resigned he was in his fifth term and had served as governor for 18 years. He was known for his opposition to a concentration of power in the central government. But it is logical to think that the longer a person is in power, the greater chance of a collusive relationship being formed between him or her and companies doing business with that person’s office.

In Fukushima Prefecture, then Gov. Morie Kimura was arrested in August 1976 on suspicion of receiving a bribe in connection with a land development project. At that time, he was in his fourth term. Fukushima Prefecture is probably the only prefecture in which two governors have been arrested for corruption. Members of local assemblies and voters should keep in mind that their task of checking the behavior of the heads of local governments is all the more important.

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