Ministry matters

Ministry officials rewrote reports after Audit Board intervention

In January 2020, the Audit Board’s bean counters noted issues with the monthly construction contract figures compiled by the Ministry of Infrastructure for use in important government economic statistics and raised the issue with senior officials. the low.

The ministry quickly ordered prefectural officials responsible for collecting monthly reports from construction companies to stop falsifying records, but the problem did not end there.

After that, ministry officials took it upon themselves to rewrite the monthly statistical figure, ministry sources said.

“A sharp drop in monthly figures would have had a dramatic impact,” noted an official in the section responsible for compiling the statistics.

The data is considered a “fundamental statistic” used to calculate, among other things, gross domestic product.

Ministry of Infrastructure officials said the practice of rewriting monthly reports ended in March 2021.

Officials at the Audit Council said on December 15 that they were aware that ministry officials themselves were rewriting the reports after January 2020.

The revelation prompted Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on December 16 to task Minister of Infrastructure Tetsuo Saito with setting up a third-party committee to investigate the scandal.

Kishida had been less enthusiastic the day before about setting up a committee, but an opposition MP later called for an investigation to determine the motive for the tampering and which ministry officials should be held accountable.

Pushed into a corner, Kishida said he wanted a report from the commission of inquiry within one month of its establishment so that it could be submitted to the Home Office’s statistics commission, which is in charge of basic statistics. .

He made the promise in response to questions posed to the Upper House Budget Committee by Shinkun Haku of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

At the same session, Saito acknowledged that ministry officials set out to rewrite the monthly reports after the Audit Board raised the issue in January last year.

The investigative committee will be overseen by Saito, who said he hopes this will prevent a repeat of such outrageous behavior and restore public confidence in government statistics.

Haku also asked if the rewriting of the reports had an impact on the compilation of the GDP figures.

Daishiro Yamagiwa, the minister of state for economic revitalization, said the effect was likely minor.

Both Kishida and Saito said on December 15 that the situation had improved after the Audit Committee raised the issue in January 2020. Kishida said the construction contract data had been revised from that date. , so that there would be no direct effect on the GDP figures for fiscal year 2020 and 2021.

(This article was written by Yoshitaka Ito, Shuhei Shibata, and Naoki Urano.)