Aso seeks ‘amakudari’ ban in ’09

New Cabinet secretariat bureau to handle civil servant management under four-year plan

Kyodo News

Prime Minister Taro Aso said Tuesday he plans by year’s end to effectively ban ministries and agencies from being go-betweens in finding “amakudari” and “watari” jobs for their retiring officials.

The government meanwhile said a new bureau to be established at the Cabinet secretariat in April 2010 will assume the personnel functions of administrative agencies now handled by the National Personnel Authority.

In a road map approved by a Cabinet task force earlier in the day, the government set a three-year transition period through 2011 before banning amakudari and watari. But Aso moved the schedule up, telling the House of Representatives Budget Committee, “I would like to create a government ordinance to ban it by the end of this year.”

Amakudari, often deemed a source of corruption, is the practice of senior bureaucrats landing postretirement jobs at entities related to the sectors they formerly supervised.

Watari is the practice of retired bureaucrats landing successive posts in semigovernmental bodies for short stints and walking away from each with a lucrative retirement package.

In deciding on the envisaged transfer of authority over civil servants during the task force meeting, the government brushed aside protests from the NPA.

The transfer is a key part of the four-year road map for reforming the national public service system. The government plans to submit bills in March to achieve the goals.

The road map involves the government launching a new public service personnel system in 2011 with an eye to formally abolishing amakudari.

“We would like to work hard on reforming the public service system,” Aso said at the task force meeting, telling his ministers to make every effort to proceed with the reforms presented in the road map.

He asked them to work out the areas in which the government remains at odds with the personnel authority.

The authority is the independent administrative commission that advises the prime minister and the Diet on central government civil servants, notably recruitment and salaries.

NPA President Masahito Tani, who attended the meeting, expressed opposition to the decision.

He has said that transferring authority to the Cabinet side, which employs bureaucrats, could violate the rights of employees and lack fairness.

The road map was initially supposed to be adopted last Friday, but no meeting was held because Tani boycotted the proceedings.

Aso apparently decided on the transfer despite the backlash from the authority because there is growing concern that a prolonged row inside the government would undermine his leadership.

“It is unfortunate that the government could not gain full understanding from the authority,” at the task force meeting, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said.

Under the road map, the Cabinet personnel and administrative bureau would integrate functions of such ministries and agencies as the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Cabinet secretariat, as well as the authority.

In the bureau, the post of national strategy officer will be created in 2010 to serve as an aide to the prime minister, and the job of political affairs officer will be established to assist Cabinet ministers.

On ways to eradicate amakudari, the reform plan would ban every government ministry and agency from playing a mediating role in finding jobs for retiring officials after the new public service personnel system is put in place in 2011, although Aso hopes to effectively have the practice banned by year’s end.