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Education ministry counted on retired bureaucrat for job placement scheme

Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Hirokazu Matsuno is seen at a Feb. 6, 2017 news conference in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi)

A former education ministry bureaucrat played a key role in the establishment of an allegedly ministry-led system to introduce post-retirement jobs to ministry officials, according to in-house documents found during an investigation into the issue.

Kazuo Shimanuki, 67, a former official at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's Personnel Division, acted as a go-between in arranging for post-retirement jobs for former colleagues after he left the ministry in July 2009. He himself had landed a councillor post at a Tokyo-based foundation just the day after his retirement, according to the ministry. The organization, called the Foundation for Welfare of Educators, has retired education ministry bureaucrats on its executive roster.

"I was wondering if I could be of some help by sharing my experiences," Shimanuki was quoted as telling the ministry's investigation team as he explained the reason for starting the job placement service. During his stint at the ministry's Personnel Division totaling almost 20 years -- with a break when he was on loan to a university -- Shimanuki arranged for jobs for retiring officials, which at the time was a legitimate practice for bureaucrats in office.

However, such a practice was banned when the revised National Public Service Act came into effect Dec. 31, 2008. In response, the then officials at the Personnel Division began to count on Shimanuki to introduce jobs to ministry retirees as he had already left the ministry.

Shimanuki was quick to meet the ministry's expectations, supplying the Personnel Division with job opening information from universities and companies, to which the division responded by providing job seekers' information via email and other means, such as the names and career history of retiring bureaucrats and what types of post-retirement jobs they were seeking. Based on the ministry's information, Shimanuki continued to match job seekers and employers.

Such a placement system led by the Personnel Division and Shimanuki had been established by sometime around 2013, making its presence known to not only the head of the division but also to the then vice minister of education and deputy minister of education, according to the revelation.

The scheme, however, hit a snag when the president of the Foundation for Welfare of Educators called Shimanuki's actions into question as the job placement was misunderstood as part of the foundation's services. There arose the need to secure a new base for such arrangement work.

An in-house ministry document dated Sept. 11, 2013 and titled, "About the service to support re-employment," elaborates on a solution proposed by the ministry and the foundation at the time. In a column titled, "The direction of the education ministry," the document states, "Mr. Shimanuki will assume the post of an adviser to an insurance company, which will assign him about a two-day workweek, and he will be engaged in the re-employment support service on a voluntary basis over the remaining three days. As this will require certain amounts of funds, a nonprofit organization will be established and publishing and other projects will be undertaken. It would be much appreciated if the foundation and other organizations could cover the salary of secretaries, the rent for office rooms and other fees."

Apparently in response, a document titled, "The view of the foundation," states that "It may be a good idea to set up an NPO to carry out re-employment support services" and that "If the re-employment support service is to be split off from the foundation, the NPO can carry out ostensible projects while we can support the payments of the salary for secretaries (around 4 million yen as of now) and the office room rent (about 100,000 yen a month as of now) under the form of outsourcing fees by way of Bunkyo Kyokai." Bunkyo Kyokai is a public interest incorporated foundation in Tokyo's Minato Ward, with a majority of its executives comprising retired education ministry bureaucrats.

Shimanuki eventually set up a private organization called Bunkyo Forum in Minato Ward in January 2014. He later assumed its presidency upon incorporating the group in April 2016, while he continued job placement services for education ministry retirees. The annual 3 million yen rent and other expenses for Bunkyo Forum were covered by Bunkyo Kyokai and the forum's salary for secretaries was footed by the Foundation for Welfare of Educators.

These arrangements appear to be embodiments of what was written in the ministry's in-house documents, and it is highly likely that the education ministry has led the establishment of an extralegal job placement system centering on Shimanuki.

"It (the system) looks extremely unnatural in the eyes of the public," a grim-looking Education Minister Hirokazu Matsuno said during a press conference. Reporters attending the conference barraged the minister with questions like, "Who produced the documents and for what purpose?" and "Who provided these documents?"

"That's exactly what our investigation team is wondering. We will make sure to release our findings," Matsuno said.

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