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SAPPORO (Kyodo) Nonprofit organizations face high barriers in their attempts to help prefectural and municipal governments by operating public facilities as designated managers.

The 2003 revision of the Local Autonomy Law authorizes private-sector companies and NPOs to become designated managers and operate public facilities on behalf of local entities.

However, the Internal Affairs and Communication Ministry said only 5 percent of NPOs nationwide have been commissioned to run certain installations under the control of local governments.

The Hokkaido NPO Support Center for Program Development saw its application to administer a center for the promotion of citizen activities rejected by the prefectural government, even though the selection committee gave it a slightly higher rating than the foundation that was eventually selected to run the center.

Shigenobu Kobayashi, 58, secretary general of the support center, said he could not believe it when he read a letter from the prefecture announcing the foundation had been chosen.

Under the selection standards set by the prefecture, the committee was supposed to report to the governor on the organization that earned the higher score.

Hokkaido officials said the committee judged the foundation’s score to be about the same as that of Kobayashi’s NPO, while committee members voted in favor of the foundation because the NPO was “weak in its structural and financial bases.”

Kobayashi has asked the prefecture to explain its decision but has not received a satisfactory response.

The foundation that was selected has nine regular employees, including four retired prefectural officials.

Kobayashi said the prefecture may have decided the foundation was the preferred candidate before the bidding to manage the center even began.

The prefectural official in charge of the selection process said the process was appropriate because the committee had several members from the private sector.

The NPO Support Center for Program Development in Tokyo said in a statement: “Local governments set up high barriers for NPO participation, such as years of practical work as conditions, in order to preserve their auxiliary organizations. They must open the door further if the administrative side wishes to collaborate with citizens.”

Despite the obstacles, some NPOs have been successful. MIYAGI Children’s Network, an NPO based in Sendai, became the designated manager of three public day-care facilities in the city last April.

The organization was selected from among about 10 applicants for the job because of its track record in working with local residents since 1998 in providing programs for children.

The staff of Ichinasaka Children’s House, one of the three day-care centers on the outskirts of Sendai, looks after 61 first- through third-graders until 6 p.m. while their mothers are at work.

A 40-year-old woman, whose first-grade son is enrolled at the facility, said the employees help her a lot since she has no relatives nearby who can take care of her son while she works at a part-time job.

Hiromi Enshu, a professor at Osaka University of Economics, said that in the United States, local governments have systems that allows resident organizations to demonstrate their abilities as NPOs, which has brought improvements to cities and local communities.

The mechanism of cooperation with companies and banks makes it possible for NPOs to expand their activities, Enshu said.

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