The government acknowledged Friday that pension reform legislation enacted by the Diet last month contained as many as 40 technical flaws, and reprimanded bureaucrats in connection with the fiasco.
The latest development regarding the unpopular legislation is likely to provide opposition parties with more ammunition in their campaign to have the reforms scrapped.
The government insisted that the mistakes are minor technical matters and will not require any revisions that would have to clear the Diet. Posting a notice of the errors in the official government gazette will suffice, officials said.
But in an unprecedented move, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda the same day reprimanded top officials of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry over the errors.
Those reprimanded at the bureau include director general Osamu Akiyama and deputy director general Masahiro Sakata. Their pay was to also be cut by 10 percent for one month.
Meanwhile, on the ministry side, four senior bureaucrats were reprimanded and slapped with similar pay cuts.
The four include vice welfare minister Yoshiharu Otsuka, Tadakazu Suzuki, director general of the ministry’s secretariat, and Tamiki Yoshitake, head of the Pension Bureau.
This is the first time that the head of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, which oversees the government’s creation and interpretation of legislation, has been punished over mistakes in bills, according to Hosoda.
“We take the matter (of the mistakes) very seriously,” the top government spokesman told a regular afternoon news conference.
The government’s pension reform program has proven to be extremely unpopular, as it will raise premiums every year until 2017 while greatly reducing benefits. Critics argue that, despite these changes, the revisions will not alter the structure of the nation’s pension system, which is sagging under the weight of a rapidly graying society.
Many of the mistakes were made when new paragraphs were inserted into the old laws, or occurred when articles in the legislation were quoted in other parts in their old form, although they had been revised, according to the welfare ministry.
The government launched a thorough re-examination of all the articles of the pension legislation after one technical mistake was pointed out by an opposition lawmaker last month.
“I can’t remember any cases where such a large number of mistakes were made in a single package of legislation,” said Minoru Nakano, head of the general affairs division at the Cabinet Legislation Bureau. He has been working at the bureau for about 20 years.
Also on Friday, top welfare ministry officials were reprimanded for not disclosing the latest figures on the nation’s declining fertility rate until after the pension reform bills had been rammed through the Diet by the ruling bloc in the closing days of the ordinary session last month.
At the same time, the ministry also revealed that 328 workers at the Social Insurance Agency, a body under the ministry, perused data on the premium nonpayment records for the National Pension System, although it had nothing to do with their work.
Those workers will be punished through such means as receiving “strong warnings,” welfare ministry officials said. Social Insurance Agency chief Akira Mano was reprimanded and given a 10 percent pay cut for one month.