Fresh talks near on forming new personnel bureau

JIJI

The government plans to engage the ruling parties this month on setting up a new Cabinet body in spring 2014 that would be in charge of managing the personnel affairs of senior government officials.

The government wants to enact legislation for the “Cabinet bureau” plan at an extraordinary Diet session that could be convened as early as mid-October.

Prospects for a near-term agreement are dim because of differences with the ruling bloc on the scope of the proposed bureau’s functions, and resistance from the National Personnel Authority, which will be stripped of some of its powers.

At a meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party on Aug. 6, administrative reform minister Tomomi Inada presented a draft that had the bureau taking charge of the affairs of some 600 senior officials.

Many participants rejected the plan.

“It is impossible for the bureau to get to know the job performances of the 600 people,” one person said.

“It will produce public servants who are always currying favor with politicians,” said another.

Some LDP members are also opposing a proposal to place a deputy chief Cabinet secretary at the top of the new bureau.

The government stopped short of including a concrete design for the new bureau in its basic policy on civil servant reform adopted in June because it had little prospect of support from the ruling coalition.

Although the government wants to conclude talks on the plan with the ruling coalition by the end of September, both sides are likely to continue bickering over how much the Cabinet’s authority over government employees should be strengthened.

In another blow to the government’s efforts, the National Personnel Authority has objected strongly to transferring the authority’s functions of planning employment examinations for public servants and setting the number of senior officials at each ministry to the proposed bureau.