EDITORIAL: Diet screening of government projects holds significance
Are all projects run by the government's ministries and agencies really necessary?
Even if they are necessary, isn't there some wasted spending?
Such questions were discussed in an open forum.
Screening of wasteful government projects, a signature policy of the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration, was conducted this time in the Diet transcending the walls between ruling and opposition parties. 民主党政権の看板政策の一つである事業仕分けが、国会に舞台を移し、与野党の垣根を越えて行われた。
The screening was done by a subcommittee of the Lower House's Committee on Audit and Oversight of Administration.
Fourteen lawmakers from the DPJ, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito spent two days looking into four projects--the development of supercomputers, clerical work to check health insurance claims, housing facilities for government employees, and expenditures to independent administrative institutions and other organizations related to nuclear energy.
While asking for the opinions of academics and local government officials, the lawmakers exchanged views, sometimes in heated debate, with senior vice ministers, parliamentary secretaries and senior officials representing their respective ministries and agencies.
For each project, they reached conclusions, such as "reductions or revisions of budget requests" and "changes of organizational structures and systems."
In the previously conducted DPJ screening, the government checked the government.
There was no system requiring ministries and agencies to act on the conclusions without fail.
In fact, budgets were spent as originally planned for quite a few projects once things simmered down.
This time, the Diet, as an "outsider," checked the work of the government.
The executive board of the committee, which is authorized to make recommendations to the Cabinet, will discuss how to handle the conclusions.
We urge the committee to take a firm stand that the government cannot ignore.
The screening also has great significance in the sense that it once again questions the way the Diet should be.
In Diet deliberations, the Lower House Budget Committee is regarded as the star.
Although it has been repeatedly pointed out that ex post facto checks are indispensable in cutting budget waste, the Committee on Audit and Oversight of Administration has failed to show a strong presence.
If the committee looks closely at waste and inconsistencies in projects through the screening process, it should be able to develop the ability to see through the "lies" of government offices that use every conceivable means to secure budgets.
Instead of writing off this attempt as a one-shot deal, we want the committee to continue the efforts while spreading the move to other committees as well.
To prepare for the screening, the members of the subcommittee analyzed the administrative project review sheets of ministries and agencies.
The documents contain the objectives, budget amounts, actual spending, flow of funds and evaluations of accomplishments for each of the more than 5,000 projects.
While using the results of such self-examination by the government's ministries and agencies, the committee should dig deeper to check each item to make the process more effective.
It was Takeshi Shina of the DPJ and Masaaki Taira of the LDP who took the initiative to prepare for the screening of wasteful government projects in the Diet.
They are both in their 40s and are serving their second term as Lower House members.
Both worked for private companies in the past.
Lawmakers are urged to re-examine their roles as representatives of the people with fresh ideas.
Doing so leads to enhancing the trust of voters and serves as the foundation for political leadership.