The Yomiuri ShimbunA suspected case of rewriting public documents has emerged, becoming a focal point in the Diet. The government must accelerate its efforts to unravel the truth about the allegation and fulfill its accountability.
The case is about approval request documents regarding the sale of state-owned land to private school operator Moritomo Gakuen.
The documents prepared by the Finance Ministry’s Kinki Local Finance Bureau on a land lease contract in 2015 and a land sale contract in 2016 are alleged to be different from those submitted by the ministry to lawmakers last year.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “The Finance Ministry is called on to make concerted efforts so that it will be able to explain [about the allegation] early.” If the issue becomes protracted, it may undermine public confidence in the Abe administration. The government needs to sort out the mess as soon as possible.
It has been alleged that words reading “peculiarity of this deal” and “exceptional contents,” which existed in original documents, were deleted in the documents submitted to the lawmakers.
Yasunori Kagoike, former president of Moritomo Gakuen, had been working in various ways in the political world in relation to land transactions. The Board of Audit raised suspicion about the discounted sale price, saying it lacks “sufficient ground.”
Opposition parties have been grilling the government, arguing that the ministry gave Moritomo Gakuen favorable treatment and tried to hide reasons for that by altering the documents.
The ministry on Thursday submitted the copies of the documents to the House of Councillors Budget Committee. Their contents were the same as those of documents submitted previously. Concerning the alleged alteration of documents, the ministry explained that it could not confirm the matter because the case is under investigation by the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office.
Govt must work with Diet
The ruling and opposition parties in unison have called for the ministry to submit the original documents. It is natural that the government should cooperatively take up the request based on parliamentary investigation rights as much as possible. If the alteration is found to be a culpable act, there is a possibility that [those in charge] will be held liable for it.
The ministry should reveal the facts about the allegation by conducting confirmation work on the documents and holding hearings with the officials concerned.
National Tax Agency Commissioner Nobuhisa Sagawa, when he was director general of the Finance Ministry’s Financial Bureau, answered in the Diet that documentary records of meetings with Moritomo Gakuen and other matters had been “discarded.” However, the ministry later disclosed the documents related to the land deal. The ministry’s handling of formal documents, which are precious administrative records, could be regarded as sloppy.
Sagawa has not held a press conference since he assumed the top post of the National Tax Agency last July. If he continues taking an unclear attitude, it will further increase the people’s distrust.
The opposition parties, including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party, have refused to enter Diet deliberations, saying that it has yet to be clarified whether the documents were altered. Amid a host of domestic and foreign issues to be dealt with, their moves cannot be called other than irresponsible. In parallel with seeking to unravel the truth about the allegation, they should enter deliberations on such matters as the fiscal 2018 budget.
The erroneous compilation by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry of data related to the discretionary labor system has been revealed in the current Diet session. The government as a whole must tackle Diet business with a heightened sense of seriousness.