Scandals drive Japanese government to revise document-shredding rules

Hit by influence scandals leading all the way to the prime minister, the Japanese government will later this month launch a debate on revising how administrative documents should be managed.

The Japan Times reports the debate will focus on how much the government can limit the arbitrary discarding of administrative documents that ought to be kept — a point recently raised in the Diet (the Japanese Parliament) amid controversies revolving around such documents.

To tackle arbitrary document destruction, the government must consider ways to reduce the number of documents kept for less than a year, which government agencies can dispose of at their own discretion.

“According to guidelines on document management drawn up in 2011, government agencies sort documents into five categories for storage, ranging from one to 30 years, according to importance. Documents left out of these categories are kept for less than a year.

“Government agencies don’t have to keep records on document creation and destruction. And each has its own set of classification rules under the guidelines,” The Times reports.

A Cabinet Office commission has been established that will examine current guidelines for determining which documents can be kept for less than a year.

Following a recent scandal involving the heavily discounted sale of government land, The Japanese Finance Ministry had to admit that its records of records on the negotiations with the owner had been destroyed.

Another scandal that led to the resignation of former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada concerned the daily activity logs from Ground Self-Defense Force engineering unit that was participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. It was later revealed, however, that the reports still exist.

“The reports describe armed conflicts in the young, conflict-torn African nation that break Japan’s conditions for allowing SDF participation in U.N. peacekeeping missions abroad, including a cease-fire.

“Both cases involved documents that agencies can destroy within a year.”

 

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