Alteration of documents shakes trust in public papers

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Liberal Democratic Party Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Hiroshi Moriyama, second from left, answers reporters’ questions about altered documents related to Moritomo Gakuen at the Diet building on Monday.

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe latest development in the alteration of documents related to the sale of state land to private school operator Moritomo Gakuen has shaken the public’s trust in public documents amid mounting calls for a thorough investigation into the case.

The Finance Ministry admitted Tuesday at the Diet to alterations in the land sale papers. Before that the ministry had consistently refused to explain the situation since suspicions about rewriting the internal documents came to light.

It is still unknown who gave the instruction to alter the documents and why.

Such an act by the ministry, which could undermine the trust in public documents, is spurring calls for a thorough explanation of the case.

On Tuesday morning, senior ministry officials were seen hastily going in and out of the Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters in the Nagatacho area of Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. Shortly after noon, Vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda and other officials reported the results of the investigation to LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai on the fourth floor of the building.

As Fukuda came out of the room afterward, he was met by reporters asking whether the ministry would hold a press conference. Fukuda only replied, “Yes” and quickly went down the stairs.

Kazushige Tomiyama, deputy director general of the ministry’s Financial Bureau, attended the House of Councillors Budget Committee’s executive meeting at the Diet on Tuesday afternoon. With his head down, Tomiyama said in a low voice, “We deeply apologize.”

Kobe Gakuin University Prof. Hiroshi Kamiwaki, 59, said: “If administrative documents are rewritten, the public cannot check administrative procedures. It’s an absolutely outrageous act that shakes democracy.”

Kamiwaki obtained, via an information disclosure request, public documents of transactions with Moritomo from the ministry’s Kinki Local Finance Bureau.

Kamiwaki furiously said, “I demand a thorough clarification of the matter.”

The Public Records and Archives Management Law stipulates that public documents must be compiled in a way that can verify administrative decision-making processes. If documents are rewritten without keeping a history of changes, it becomes impossible for anyone to verify them afterward.

Masahiro Uzaki, a professor emeritus of constitutional law at Dokkyo University, said: “This is an act that totally overturns the trust in public documents. It should never be tolerated.”

The documents may have been altered to be submitted to the Diet. Uzaki, in particular, finds this problematic.

“It means an administrative body lied to the Diet, which is the highest organ of state power. From the viewpoint of relations between the administrative and legislative powers, this poses a grave problem,” Uzaki said.

It has also been revealed that content mentioning the names of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Akie, and several politicians were deleted from the documents.

Yukiko Miki, who heads the nonprofit organization Access-Info Clearinghouse Japan, said: “The current situation can be interpreted as an administrative body protecting politics. This is extreme corruption.”

“By selecting information, this act deceives not only the Diet but also the general public. Politicians should take responsibility for clearly articulating whether politics played any role in the decision to alter the documents,” Miki said. Speech

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