Punishment at last has been meted out to now-disqualified structural designer Hidetsugu Aneha, the main player in the earthquake-resistance data-fabrication scandal that surfaced in November 2005. The Tokyo District Court Tuesday sentenced him to five years in prison, coupled with a 1.8 million yen fine, for fabricating data, lending his license to another building designer and committing perjury before a Diet committee.

Although the court handed down the sentence sought by the prosecution, there’s a residual feeling that something is missing. That’s because the government itself, which is responsible to some extent for the scandal, has not been held to account. It was the government’s deregulation policy, allowing government-designated private agencies to certify building designs from 1999, that induced the designer to abuse his special skills.

And despite the ruling, victims of the scandal have not been relieved of their suffering in a tangible manner. The designer fabricated quake-resistance data for 99 condominiums and hotels in 18 prefectures.

Double-loan burdens have fallen on people who happened to buy affected condos. They must repay loans on condos they had to evacuate and now additional loans on condos that they build or buy anew. They are not to blame. Government-authorized building inspection firm eHomes Inc., condominium developer Huser Ltd. and building contractor Kimura Construction Co. failed to detect the fabrications. Land ministry officials should humbly listen to the words one such condo resident said: “The essence of the scandal is defective public administration of the construction industry.”

The scandal forced introduction of new measures to require a second check of structural design documents and strengthen punishment of violators. The Diet plans to enact a law next year obliging residence sellers to take out insurance policies against defective buildings. Central and local government officials and construction and housing industry people must do their utmost to eradicate design data fabrication.

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