Whistle-blowing systems feeble at the local level

Only 20 percent of the 47 prefectural governments and 15 major cities across Japan have third-party points to accept calls from whistle-blowers, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.

Many other local governments have contact points concurrently managed by local government officials in charge of general affairs. But these contact points are rarely used, meaning that the system to prevent corruption in politics is not functioning properly, the survey found.

The whistle-blower protection law took effect in April this year, banning company and government officials from taking punitive action, such as dismissals, against employees who report illicit activities.

But fears of repercussions abound, particularly in governments that control the whistle-blower system.

“If one is to report wrongdoing under his or her own name, the name will be inevitably leaked and will be identified in the prefectural government,” said an official who once worked in the secretarial section of the Wakayama prefectural government, the site of a recent bid-rigging scandal that forced the governor to resign.

The official said if calls are made anonymously, they will simply be filed as “rumors.”

“We can’t do anything about it unless there is a third-party entity,” the official said.

Two prefectures, including Fukushima Prefecture, where a former governor was recently arrested over another bid-rigging scandal, and one city have no whistle-blowing systems whatsoever, the survey showed.