Last year's Government Revitalization Unit review process for government-supported programs was wildly and widely popular. Most of the public enjoyed in a quite visceral way the sight of members of the bureaucracy undergoing a thorough grilling, with the suffering being inflicted being minor in comparison to the arrogance of the administrators and the venal pointless of many of the programs.
Support for the GRU process was not unqualified, however. While some of the quibbles persons had with the process were just that, quibbles, some of the points raised in opposition were significant. A particularly apt criticism of the process was its capriciousness: nowhere was it spelled out what the GRU's commissioners were looking for in terms of red flags or red lines. Administrators of public programs and state aid recipients flailed about under the camera lights, trying to determine in the few moments they had before the commissioners what they needed to say in order to earn the commissioners' mercy.
Last Friday, State Minister for Economic Revitalization Edano Yukio [he has asked reporters to forego calling him "Mr. Minister" ("daijin") in favor of the simple "Edano-san" they had been using before his post was upgraded] took some big steps in the direction of transparency. The GRU would be using seven guidelines to identify public-interest corporations (kōeki hōjin) worthy of examination in the next round of reviews scheduled for this April. That the number of koeki hojin is astonishingly large (24,648, according to The Japan Times) probably played no small part in the decision to publish some rules of engagement in the battle of The Government (big T, big G) vs. government (little g).
The seven habits of highly endangered public interest corporations are:
1) receiving more than 10 million yen a year total from either the government or independent administrative agencies (dokuritsu gyōsei hōjin) in 2007
2) being founded on a mandate established by statute
3) receiving more than 50% of revenues from public-supplied funds
4) controlling over 1 billion yen in assets
5) receiving funding from local governments
6) accepting public-supplied funds to pay for outsourced functions
7) serving as a source of amakudari (post-retirement sinecures) for ex-bureaucrats.
The final standard brings up "the assen problem" of whether or not a sinecure that has not been directly arranged for "through the good offices of the Ministry" (fushōchō ni yoru assen) is eligible for examination. Edano has said that there will be no attempt to make a determination the extent of the involvement of ministries or agencies of the koeki hojin's hiring of former bureaucrats. All koeki hojin with former bureaucrats on staff should consider themselves suspect.