Ministry Admits To Inflating Waste Disposal Cost

Ministry admits to inflating waste disposal cost

Japan's Finance Ministry has admitted that its local bureau asked to pad the waste removal cost in a land deal in an alleged favoritism scandal.

It revealed this at a Lower House committee meeting on Monday in connection with the sale of state-owned land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen at a fraction of market value.

An opposition lawmaker said the bureau in Osaka Prefecture discounted the cost by about 7.5 million dollars, although a local civil aviation office that owned the land estimated that the discount should have been around 5.5 million dollars.

The chief of the ministry's Financial Bureau, Mitsuru Ota, said the aviation office gave its estimate in April 2016, and said the cost only covers the area on which school facilities will be built.

Ota said the bureau had been told by Moritomo's side that there is buried waste elsewhere, so the bureau asked whether it would be all right to make the estimate on the assumption that there is no more waste.

He said no one at the bureau remembers mentioning the concrete figure, but they did tell the aviation office to expand the area to be covered by waste disposal work.
Ota acknowledged that it's tantamount to asking the aviation office to pad the cost.

A lawmaker from the ruling party referred to a photo of the then-head of the school operator with his wife and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie.

The school operator reportedly showed the picture to the bureau on April 28th, 2014, and demanded that it swiftly proceed with land deal negotiations. But negotiation papers the ministry recently submitted to the Diet do not include any records from that day.

The lawmaker asked whether the ministry really submitted all records available.

Finance Minister Taro Aso said there may be more, but the submitted papers are all the ministry has at the moment.

The opposition bloc is requesting that Aso step down over the alleged scandal. But Aso refused, saying that he must oversee the ministry's efforts to look into how the allegation occurred and how to prevent a recurrence.

Prime Minister Abe reiterated his intention to keep Aso in his post.