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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

No-confidence motion targets health chief for pension fiasco


Staff writer

Opposition parties said Monday they will jointly submit a no-confidence motion against health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa over the fiasco in which the Social Insurance Agency scrambled huge amounts of pension premium payment data.

The Democratic Party of Japan, Social Democratic Party and Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party) said they will submit the motion against Yanagisawa if the Lower House holds a planned plenary session Tuesday to pass a bill to reform the Social Insurance Agency.

"Health minister Yanagisawa is the top executive responsible for the act of fraud (over the pension fiasco) against the general public," DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama said.

The Social Insurance Agency, which manages the pension system, reported there are about 50 million unidentified premium payments. Without accurate information on who made the payments and the amounts, many people are probably receiving smaller pensions than they are entitled to.

The statute of limitations to apply for a pension is five years after retirement. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his intention to have a law submitted to the current Diet session to abolish the five-year limit.

"The statute of limitations should not have existed in the first place" because responsibility lies with the agency, not the public, Hatoyama said.

The problem started in 1997 when the agency computerized its pension data, issuing universal pension identification numbers. Up to 1997, the agency had been issuing new numbers to those who changed jobs or applied to the program individually. This unification led to the 50 million unidentified pension payments.

The Diet is currently deliberating a bill to abolish the scandal-tinted Social Insurance Agency in 2010 and create an organization that would have private-sector employees take over pension management.

The bill follows revelations that agency officials illegally exempted people from paying pension premiums and squandered pension revenues on wasteful expenses.

Amid strong protests from the opposition parties, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its partner, New Komeito, rammed the reform bill through a Lower House committee Friday.

The ruling coalition "is ramming every bill (through the Diet), conducting politics with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude," Hatoyama said. "This (attitude) is inexcusable."

The opposition camp has called for further deliberation on the bill.

"The order should be first to thoroughly investigate the situation and decide on measures to be taken before (the Diet) starts (to discuss) creating a new system," said Hisaoki Kamei, secretary general of Kokumin Shinto.



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