Missing SDF reports, Moritomo issue imply officials lack awareness of rules

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe series of misconduct cases involving government ministries represents a circumstance too dreadful to watch. The government must take the situation seriously and tighten the reins of administrative organizations once again.

A succession of new facts has been brought to light regarding the discovery of daily reports written during a dispatch of Ground Self-Defense Force personnel to Iraq from 2004 to 2006, an unusual situation for which Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera has repeatedly apologized. It has also been confirmed that similar daily reports exist at the Air Self-Defense Force.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had every reason to offer an apology at an Audit Committee session at the House Councillors, saying, “[The situation] is a serious problem that could affect civilian control, and it is extremely regrettable.”

In February last year, a senior official of the Defense Ministry’s Joint Staff Office was questioned by then Defense Minister Tomomi Inada about whether daily reports on the SDF’s Iraqi mission existed, but he did not clearly instruct each arm of the SDF to search for the reports.

Although Inada’s remarks were ambiguous in a sense, the official must be held responsible for disregarding the words of the defense minister.

The Defense Ministry, which administers the SDF, an organization that possesses power for self-defense, is required to maintain greater discipline than other ministries and agencies.

New GSDF daily reports on U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan have also been discovered.

Were there really no concealment and other activities? The Defense Ministry should strive to uncover all of the facts of the latest cases and clear up any doubts.

Discord between Defense Ministry bureaucrats, dubbed “the suits,” and senior SDF officers, referred to as “the uniforms,” is cited as a factor behind the series of problems.

It is vital to make their organizational atmosphere more open and ensure leadership is better exercised in this respect.

Accountability needed

It is necessary for Onodera to display his leadership in identifying the problems involved in the ministry, thereby reorganizing it.

The faults are not limited to the Defense Ministry. A case in point concerns the state-owned land sale to Moritomo Gakuen. At a session of the upper house Audit Committee, it came to light that the Finance Ministry’s Financial Bureau had asked the school corporation to offer a false explanation about the land sale.

In February last year, an opposition party lawmaker questioned the appropriateness of the land deal in relation to garbage removal, the amount of which was cited as a reason for a reduction of about ¥800 million in the sale price. “[The amount of garbage supposedly required] as many as 4,000 dump trucks,” he said. “[The reduction] was properly carried out,” Nobuhisa Sagawa, then director general of the Financial Bureau, said in his reply to the question.

In response to this, an employee of the bureau is alleged to have said to a lawyer representing the school corporation, “Why don’t you say something like, ‘Thousands of trucks were used [for the removal work].’”

This signifies a flagrant act that lacks moral consciousness. Mitsuru Ota, director general of the Financial Bureau, described the proposal as an “erroneous action” at the audit committee. The Finance Ministry should fulfill its accountability regarding alterations to documents tied to the approval of the land deal and suspicions surrounding the price reduction.

The government as a whole needs to properly manage official documents and ensure ethical codes for public servants are thoroughly observed.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 10, 2018)Speech


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