Photo/IllutrationThe Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is located in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

A scandal appears to be looming for government ministries and agencies over the flouting of a law to promote employment of people with disabilities.

There are indications that they padded figures to make it seem they were meeting statutory hiring quotas.

The central government, as well as local entities, is required by law to hire a certain percentage of people with disabilities. The private sector is obligated to do the same.

As of April 1, the quota for central and local governments was revised to 2.5 percent of the overall work force from 2.3 percent, and that for businesses to 2.2 percent from 2 percent.

A farm ministry official acknowledged in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun on Aug. 17 that some figures for such employment were inflated.

"We did not confirm whether people with a physical disability had been properly diagnosed," the official said.

Many other ministries, including the transport and communication ministries, said they are checking.

While the private sector is subject to an audit about its hiring of people with disabilities, no such mechanism exists to verify the numbers claimed by government ministries and agencies as they are not covered under the audit.

This suggests the malpractice could have been going on for years, sources said.

Kiyomi Tsujimoto, chief of the Diet Affairs Committee of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said her party will press for Diet discussion on the issue, although the regular Diet session ended last month.

“The central government’s handling of the matter was slipshod,” she said.

In June, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare instructed other ministries and agencies to take a fresh look at hiring practices as of June 1, 2017. It will announce the results as soon as it compiles a report on the subject.

Under labor ministry guidelines, those who were counted into the statutory rate have either a physical disability certificate, an intellectual disability certificate or a mental disability certificate. These certificates are issued by prefectural governors.

People who are recognized as such by designated doctors of mental health are also eligible to be included in the rate.

The labor ministry said the issue came to light after it began receiving inquiries from central government ministries and agencies about how to interpret the guidelines. Many government entities may have included those with lighter disabilities in their hiring quotas, according to sources.

The ministry said previously that 33 central government entities, including ministries and agencies, hired around 6,900 people with disabilities in 2017, or 2.49 percent on average, adding that most of the entities cleared the 2.3 percent rate.

The Japan Organization for Employment of the Elderly, Persons with Disabilities and Job Seekers, a central government-affiliated entity, conducts an audit of companies every three years to assess whether they are meeting the quota based on the labor ministry’s guidelines. This includes a check of certificates.

If businesses fail to meet quota, they are required to pay 50,000 yen ($454) per person a month to the central government as a penalty.