More than 100 social insurance offices across Japan experienced problems Sunday with a computer system containing public pension records, making it impossible for staff to respond to inquiries from people seeking advice for about 90 minutes in the morning.
The problem with the computer system came to light at around 8:30 a.m. Sunday at 130 social insurance offices in 23 prefectures, an hour before they opened for pension consultation services, officials of the Social Insurance Agency said.
It was the first weekend since the government agency set up ad hoc pension consultation booths at 309 regional offices nationwide to deal with people concerned about the possible loss of their pension account data.
The agency decided to open the booths on Sunday to offer consultation services as many people were anxious about blunders by the agency in keeping track of data on a massive number of pension accounts.
Due to the computer problems at offices in Shizuoka, Kanagawa, Hyogo, Tokushima, Kagawa, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, Okinawa and other prefectures, staff told some of the people seeking advice that their records would be mailed to them.
The agency is investigating what caused the computer system failure, the officials said.
At the offices where the malfunction occurred, staff could access the computer network but were unable to retrieve records of individual pension plan members, they said.
From 9:30 a.m., when the booths opened for service, until about 11 a.m., when the system fully recovered, according to the officials.
An agency official apologized for the incident, saying, “We have caused great inconvenience to the people who came for consultations during the time when a failure occurred which prevented us from using the pension online-system terminals . . . We will take measures so that this kind of failure does not happen again.”
The agency used to issue new pension account numbers to the same person when, for instance, he or she changed jobs or got married. It was therefore not unusual for a person to hold more than one pension account book, with the total number of accounts at one point reaching around 300 million, nearly three times Japan’s population.
The agency began unifying overlapping numbers assigned to the same people, but as of June last year, the owners of around 50 million accounts had yet to be identified. On Wednesday, the welfare minister said up to 14 million additional accounts have been found that are yet to be processed for unification.