There has been a lot going on in the world recently, so you can be forgiven for missing this one; but over the last few months, there have been series of scandals in Japan, all around document destruction. These scandals lead all the way to the prime minister, which is why the Japanese government is now launching a debate on revising how administrative documents should be managed.
What’s The Problem?
A series of scandals revolving around the leaking and destruction of essential documents within the Japanese government have been cropping up recently, with the most recent leak and subsequent shredding threatening the Japanese prime minister’s grip on power. In another scandal that led to the resignation of former Defence Minister Tomomi Inada last month, the Defence Ministry said it discarded the daily activity logs from Ground Self-Defence Force engineering unit that was participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. Another was the Moritomo Gakuen scandal, part of which involved the heavily discounted sale of government land to the Osaka-based nationalist school operator. The Finance Ministry told the Diet that its records on the negotiations with the owner, who had once been supported by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife but now faces fraud charges, had been destroyed.
Unlike in the UK, Japanese rules around document management are not set in legal stone – they are simply guidelines. These guidelines for document management in Japan were first drawn up in 2011, and states that government agencies should sort documents into 4 categories for storage – ranging from 1 to 30 years – according to importance. Documents left out of these categories are kept for less than a year. Government agencies in Japan don’t have to keep records on document creation and destruction, and each agency has its own set of classification under these guidelines.
So What’s Next
In light of the scandals, the government debate will be focussed on how much the government can limit the arbitrary discarding of administrating documents that should be kept. In order to tackle the arbitrary document destruction, the government is considering ways to reduce the number of documents that are kept for less than a year. The debate, which will take place in the coming weeks, will study specific requirements for documents to be kept for less than a year, hoping to tweak the guidelines by the end of this year. In light of these scandals, various government employees are calling for a clear line to be drawn between administrative documents and notes – a line which isn’t clear now. Under the public records and archives management law, administrative documents are defined merely as “documents that the staff of administrative agencies create as part of their duties and are used as an organization.”
The seriousness of these document scandals is not to be underestimated, and they do a great job of highlighting the need for effective document handling storage and destruction legislation. In the UK, we have various laws that govern how businesses and government organisations can deal with different documents, including how long to store them for and providing proof of adequate destruction. If you would like to learn more about how you should destroy your documents and how we can help you do so, just get in touch with us today.