National / Politics

Government mulls plan to assign record-keeping supervisor to each ministry

Government mulls plan to assign record-keeping supervisor to each ministry

Kyodo

Japan might install officials dedicated to supervising the management of administrative documents at each government ministry to prevent important records from being discarded, a government source said.

The idea was floated Saturday after the mishandling of documents related to the influence-peddling allegations against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe raised questions about whether materials such as memos and files kept personally constitute official documents.

The supervisors would be responsible for deciding which documents should be kept, but experts say such officials would still be able to erase sensitive information they want to keep out of the public eye.

Currently, decisions on which materials constitute official documents and need to be preserved are made individually at each public office.

The government’s record-keeping drew public attention when allegations surfaced earlier in the year that a senior Cabinet official passed on Abe’s instructions about approving a university project that would benefit the prime minister’s close friend.

A personal memo of a ministry official later came to light illustrating the Cabinet official’s remarks to education ministry officials, and its emergence belied government denials that such a document existed.

Yukiko Miki, head of the nongovernmental group Access-info Clearinghouse Japan, which aims to promote public information disclosure, said the proposed system won’t work properly if the supervisors are given too much discretion.

“Once information is shared in emails and shared folders, it should be legally considered administrative documents” which must be uniformly preserved, Miki said.

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