Kiyoshi Murase, deputy president of Sompo Japan Insurance Inc., was appointed commissioner of the Social Insurance Agency on Tuesday, becoming the first appointee from a private firm to head the body affiliated with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The appointment was made by welfare minister Chikara Sakaguchi, who also named Toshikazu Togari, 56, vice minister for policy coordination, as vice minister the ministry’s top bureaucratic post and Yoshiki Watanabe, 51, councilor of the minister’s Secretariat, as director general of the Pension Bureau.

The reshuffle of the ministry’s senior officials had been delayed due to a series of pension-related snafus, including some 40 technical errors found in pension reform laws rushed through the Diet in June and a delay in reporting a fall in the birthrate.

Sakaguchi suggested that Tamiki Yoshitake, director general of the Pension Bureau, would retire to take responsibility for the miscues.

“I appreciate (Yoshitake’s) efforts to establish the (pension reform) laws, but he will retire due to a variety of reasons,” Sakaguchi told a news conference Tuesday.

Murase, 57, replaces Akira Mano, who will retire partly to take responsibility for wasteful use of pension premiums.

Sakaguchi also appointed Tetsuo Tsuji, 57, director general of the Health Insurance Bureau, as vice minister for policy coordination, and Yutaka Aoki, 53, director general for policy planning and evaluation, as head of the Labor Standards Bureau. Kunio Mizuta, 54, who is also director general for policy planning and evaluation, will head the Health Insurance Bureau.

All the appointments will take effect Friday.

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