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    ”Incompetence, inadequacies, and possible corruption”

    Attention-grabbing lead paragraph of the week goes to the English Asahi:

    The land ministry Thursday started a series of inspections to determine the extent of incompetence, inadequacies and possible corruption in an industry sector responsible for the safety of people’s lives.

    One tiny thing to be grateful for is that this is connected to the Aneha scandal and not, you know, some entirely new revelation about a whole different industry:

    Twelve inspectors of the ministry’s Housing Bureau started searching Japan ERI Co., the nation’s largest building inspection company, in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, at 9:30 a.m. [The article is dated 9 September.–SRK]

    The ministry wants to determine why the company failed to act on a warning in 2004 that former architect Hidetsugu Aneha had faked a structural-strength report for a building in Tokyo.

    Japan ERI Co. is not the same company that was warned by an on-site construction manager that reinforcements at the ground level were insufficient, so we have yet another organization to finger for not listening to alarms that had in fact been sounded.

    Naturally, some people are taking this opportunity to cast aspersions on privatization:

    Some experts say these private-sector companies have a difficult time being objective in their inspections. That is because real estate developers are not only the inspection companies’ clients, they are often their shareholders.

    And this is different from the government’s being in bed with major keiretsu, their banks, and major constructions firms…how, exactly? Obviously, there were problems with monitoring here. Whether they stem from the very fact that the government privatized some of its inspection functions is a very debatable point, especially considering that when the fraud-filled documents did, in fact, hit the desks of government construction agencies, they let them pass through without challenging them. Another good thing to bear in mind is that, while it’s not exactly classic amakudari, the inspectors now being targeted for investigation have interesting origins:

    “We will completely cooperate with the ministry’s inspections,” Takahide Suzuki, the Japan ERI president, said in a statement. “By doing so, we want to regain the people’s trust in our company.”

    Japan ERI employs 165 building inspectors, including 102 who had worked in local governments.

    Other companies said they do not have the manpower to keep pace with the demand.

    “We have no other choice but to employ people who worked as construction superintendents in local governments,” an official said.

    Just keeps getting better, huh?

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