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Japan government embarrassed in late-night taxi favor scandal

Japan government embarrassed in late-night taxi favor scandal

Japan's government acknowledged Friday that hundreds of bureaucrats routinely accept free beer, snacks and even cash from taxi drivers competing for late-night business.
The revelation came in response to an opposition request for a survey of government-wide taxi use, and could be a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's unpopular government.
Public servants can claim late-night taxis as an official expense, but government guidelines prohibit them from accepting hospitality or benefits exceeding "common sense." It was not immediately clear what, if any, penalties those implicated in the scandal would face.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said a government investigation found that 502 bureaucrats from 13 ministries and agencies accepted gifts on about 12,400 occasions from taxi drivers competing for repeat fares.
Finance Ministry bureaucrats accepted some 1.88 million yen (US$17,690) in cash as inducements to ride in certain cabs over an undisclosed period of time, he said. Other Cabinet ministers said beer, tea, merchandise coupons, rice and candy were also offered and were accepted by public servants from their ministries as gifts.
"We will investigate further and take strict measures," Machimura told a lower house audit committee.
Machimura said bureaucrats from the powerful Finance Ministry were the main recipients of taxi favors, although public servants from the land and transport, agriculture, defense, education and trade ministries were also implicated in the scandal.
Public anger over an unpopular gasoline tax and new health insurance rules has caused support for Fukuda's Cabinet to fall to the lowest levels since he took power in September. The prime minister quickly denounced those involved.
"Public servants must strictly discipline themselves. They should avoid anything that might invite suspicion from the people," he said.
Transport Minister Tetsuzo Fuyushiba said cab drivers apparently offered the favors to promote sales.
"Cash is problematic, and beer is undesirable," Fuyushiba said.


Updated : 2021-07-28 05:06 GMT+08:00