TOKYO, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday instructed his cabinet ministers to draw up countermeasures to avoid future cases of government officials mishandling or falsifying documents following a slew of such cases that have damaged public trust in the government.
"To secure proper management of public documents, the government will come together to thoroughly conduct a necessary review," Abe said at a meeting held at his office, comprising a number of ministers.
He added that the government needed to "sincerely reflect on" the scandals, which have involved ministries previously falsifying, tampering with, or, in other ways, covering up official documents.
A day earlier, Japan's Finance Ministry said it will punish 20 officials for their involvement in the falsifying of documents connected to the controversial heavily-discounted sale of state-owned land to Moritomo Gakuen, a nationalist school operator with ties to the prime minister and his wife.
A former top bureaucrat at the ministry, Nobuhisa Sagawa, who has since resigned over his alleged involvement in "setting the direction" of the protracted cronyism scandal, will receive the equivalent of a 3-month suspension and Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso, of his own volition, will repay his salary as a cabinet minister for one year to take responsibility for the drawn-out scandal, that has implicated a number of senior officials, including the prime minister and his wife, Akie.
In March, Japan's Finance Ministry, amid increasing pressure from opposition parties, admitted to knowingly altering documents to do with the cut-price land sale.
The admission by the Finance Ministry has intensified calls from the opposition camp for Aso to resign to take responsibility for the favoritism scandal.
As the scandal also sees Abe deeply entrenched, some opposition parties have also called for the prime minister himself to step down.
Abe's administration has also been widely condemned for covering up the activity logs for Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) troops deployed to Iraq between 2004 and 2006.
Having initially said the activity logs had been discarded, the ministry flip-flopped saying it had subsequently found the sensitive documents, leading to growing public mistrust and 17 officials being disciplined for their involvement in the coverup scandal.
The Japanese premier said Tuesday that his ministers needed to improve state officials' compliance regarding the handling of government documents and use electronic technology to avoid falsification when recording the rewriting of documents.
The changes in document handling protocols may also involve the creation of a new position in the Cabinet Office, along the lines of a bureau-chief-level administrator, to personally oversee all the handling at agencies and ministries of state documents, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.