Whatever administration is in power should be able to disclose certain details of how the Cabinet Secretariat’s discretionary funds have been used after a certain time has passed, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Wednesday, proposing a level of transparency that has so far been elusive.
But Fujimura added that it would be “inappropriate” for the Cabinet Secretariat itself to identify the recipients of such payments or why the outlays were made because such information, as in other countries, is “highly confidential.”
When the Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009, ousting the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the first DPJ prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, pledged to disclose how the funds were used, instead of being secretive like his LDP predecessors. But in the end he didn’t.
Successive LDP administrations routinely kept clandestine how the funds, which, for example in fiscal 2010 amounted to some ¥1.4 billion, were used, giving rise to accusations of slush funds and other types of corruption.
The Wednesday comments by the DPJ’s Fujimura came after the Osaka District Court late last month ordered the government to disclose receipts from mass transit organizations in connection with ¥250 million in secret funds that were used by the Cabinet of the last LDP prime minister, Taro Aso, in September 2009 after the DPJ won the general election that August.
Fujimura’s comments also precede the Dec. 16 Lower House election, which polls indicate will see the DPJ ousted from power and the LDP possibly returning to the government helm.
The Law on Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs stipulates that the government does not need to disclose information if such revelations may hinder the proper execution of business conducted by state organs. In the case of the secret funds, which are officially disbursed by the chief Cabinet secretary, it is believed they are basically meant for intelligence-gathering.
Fujimura said he will leave the decision on how to deal with his proposal on the secret funds to the chief Cabinet secretary of the government that will be formed after the coming election.
He meanwhile said the government will file an appeal against a district court ruling that partially revoked the state’s rejection of a civic group’s demand for disclosure of how the secret funds were used.
The plaintiffs asked the government in October 2009 to disclose documents on the use of the funds. But the state rejected the request, saying such revelations might prevent the government from performing its activities smoothly.
The district court turned down the plaintiffs’ request for disclosure of documents that could possibly help identify the recipients of the funds, but ordered the disclosure on the disbursements to mass transit organizations.
“We think the ruling was inappropriate,” Fujimura said at a regular press conference.