The government has restarted its selection of contractors for back-office work for its Go To Campaign intended to mainly help the struggling tourism and restaurant industries.
The government revised the selection process in response to criticism of the high costs for the work being commissioned in relation to the project, a key stimulus measure drawn up to deal with the fallout from the new coronavirus pandemic.
But the government does not seem to have taken any drastic step to cut the costs. The maximum outsourcing fees remain unchanged at ¥309.5 billion, nearly 20 percent of the project's total cost of ¥1.7 trillion.
The government has begun accepting applications to undertake the back-office work for Go To Travel Campaign, the tourism portion of the project. For that sector, the limit of the outsourcing costs is set at ¥229.4 billion and will be covered by the transport ministry and the tourism agency.
Applications will be accepted until June 29. The government hopes to finish the selection in early July so that the Go To Travel Campaign can be rolled out by early August.
Last week, the government stopped receiving applications for the back-office work for the entire project due to the criticism over the high costs, mainly from opposition parties.
The government has split up the work to have relevant government agencies select their own contractors in their respective fields in order to lower costs.
However, the government has kept intact the total outsourcing fees at ¥309.5 billion, which also include ¥46.9 billion for assistance to eating and drinking establishments from the agriculture ministry and ¥33.2 billion from the economy ministry to help shopping districts and event businesses.
At a news conference Tuesday, transport minister Kazuyoshi Akaba said the ¥229.4 billion figure for Go To Travel is "just the limit." He promised to check whether the contractor will carry out the work efficiently.
The government set a rule banning the contractors of back-office work for any portion of the Go To Campaign from outsourcing the awarded work to others. In addition, the government will disclose the names of applicants not chosen.
But it remains to be seen whether the selection process reform will lead to cost cuts.
In the Go To Travel Campaign, tourists will be given discounts and coupons for shopping and eating at travel destinations worth up to ¥20,000 per person for each they night stay at an accommodation facility.
Those on day trips will be given discounts and coupons worth up to ¥10,000.
In addition to individual trips, group trips such as those by schools and companies will also be covered by the campaign.
The contractor will undertake major work, including briefings for related business operators, promotional activities and the issuance of hundreds of millions of coupons.