地方制度答申 分権へ議会と監査を強化せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jun. 22, 2009)
Decentralization needs strong local pols, audits
地方制度答申 分権へ議会と監査を強化せよ(6月22日付・読売社説)

To promote decentralization, it is essential to improve the local government systems to which administrative work and authority are to be transferred. In addition to municipal mergers, it is important to strengthen local assemblies as well as auditing and oversight of local governments.

An advisory panel to the prime minister on local government has proposed that the incentives for the so-called Heisei-era megamergers end in March. The panel also suggested that the megamerger campaign be followed by voluntary mergers, regional cooperation among municipalities and the establishment of administrative support systems by prefectural governments for small municipalities.

The government's megamerger campaign that started in 1999 has decreased the number of municipalities with populations of fewer than 10,000 by nearly 70 percent, with about 470 such municipalities remaining. The financial situation of municipal governments in depopulated mountainous areas or on remote islands is serious.

Tokyo, Osaka and other metropolitan areas have seen few municipal mergers. Even if it is not so problematic at this stage, financial burdens are expected to sharply rise in the mid- to long-term due to rapid aging of the population and renovation of public facilities.


Continue voluntary mergers

To strengthen administrative and fiscal bases of municipal governments, mergers remain a promising option. Voluntary mergers of municipalities should be encouraged, and systems for the central and prefectural governments to extend support for municipal mergers should remain in the future.

The panel called for widening the scope of public works projects and other matters for which assembly approval is required to conclude contracts, as well as the target of semipublic sector entities required to submit financial reports to local assemblies. These measures are expected to strengthen the oversight functions of local assemblies.

When decentralization moves forward, the role of local assemblies will become significantly larger. While universal criteria for setting up day care centers set by the central government are to be minimized, criteria that could be stipulated through ordinances passed by local assemblies are to significantly increase.

In such processes, it is unacceptable that local assembly members continue acting as go-betweens for particular interests or practicing pork-barrel politics.


Local government must change

Members of local assemblies must be well aware of the gravity of their responsibilities and are expected to change their attitudes. Local residents, for their part, should pay attention not only to local governments but also to local assemblies.

The panel's proposal included measures to strengthen auditing functions. The panel called for joint establishment of an auditing committee office by a number of municipalities and the introduction of a system under which local governments would undergo external auditing once in a couple of fiscal years.

These measures are aimed at helping small municipalities, which have difficulty in setting up an independent audit office or conducting external auditing every fiscal year, to expand their auditing functions.

To prevent another case of municipal bankruptcy like the city of Yubari in Hokkaido, local governments from this fiscal year under the law on local government fiscal health are obliged to make fiscal reconstruction plans in certain cases based on financial settlements in previous fiscal years.

It is important that each local government try to streamline administrative work without losing the substance of auditing functions but by incorporating third-party perspectives generated from external auditing.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 22, 2009)
(2009年6月22日01時26分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-06-22 07:29 | 英字新聞

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