National

Koizumi urges Murase to use private sector

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday told Kiyoshi Murase, tapped to become the new commissioner of the Social Insurance Agency, to reform the scandal-hit agency through means such as bringing in a slew of private-sector individuals.

“Boldly go all the way. You can bring in as many people” from the private sector as necessary, Koizumi told Murase, deputy president of Sompo Japan Insurance Inc., in a meeting at the prime minister’s office.

Murase told reporters after the meeting: “The most important question is how can I make the Social Insurance Agency into an entity that is trusted by the public?

“I would take measures to resolve (the agency’s problems) after improving its transparency.”

Murase will be the first private-sector individual to head the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s auxiliary body when his appointment takes effect in mid-July.

Expectations are high that he will use his expertise to reform the agency, which has been widely criticized by the public for a range of problems, including its misuse of pension and public funds to build unprofitable resorts and recreational facilities.

Murase said he has been told by ministry officials that the mechanism for collecting national pension premiums must be reformed into a sustainable and trustworthy system. At present, the premium nonpayment rate stands at nearly 40 percent.

Public trust in the agency — and in the national pension system that it oversees — has also been shaken by revelations that many politicians have failed to pay their own pension premiums.

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