Administrative vice minister for education Kazuo Todani is poised to resign over a series of bribery cases involving senior ministry officials, people close to the government have disclosed.
Todani, 61, has been questioned by public prosecutors in connection with the cases, as he was allegedly at a venue where a former Tokyo consulting firm executive wined and dined other education bureaucrats.
Now questions are being raised about governance within the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and Todani is expected to make a final decision on whether to give up his position depending on how the investigation proceeds.
If Todani resigns, he will be the second top ministry bureaucrat in a row to step down, after Todani's predecessor Kihei Maekawa, 63, was forced out in January last year following his involvement in systemic and illegal job hunting for former ministry officials in industries they once regulated.
In the latest bribery case, Futoshi Sano, 59, former director-general of the ministry's Science and Technology Policy Bureau, was indicted on charges of accepting bribes in return for helping Tokyo Medical University win ministry subsidies. Sano had the school illicitly admit his son as a student.
Kazuaki Kawabata, 57, former director general in charge of international affairs, has been arrested on suspicion of bribery. Kawabata was allegedly wined and dined by the former executive while the bureaucrat was on loan to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as a board member.
Criticism of Todani has been growing as those two bribery cases surfaced under his watch, and public prosecutors found he was at a venue at which a Tokyo consultancy in the probe provided entertainment.
Todani joined the former Science and Technology Agency in 1980, before it merged into the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Like Sano and Kawabata, he assumed important positions in charge of science and technology, and served as director-general at the minister's secretariat.
(Japanese original by Takuya Izawa, City News Department)