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2009年6月 6日 (土)

日本郵政人事 核心は不祥事の経営責任だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jun. 6, 2009)
The buck stops with Japan Post management
日本郵政人事 核心は不祥事の経営責任だ(6月6日付・読売社説)

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kunio Hatoyama has been making waves with his increasingly vocal opposition to Japan Post Holdings Co.'s

plan to reappoint Yoshifumi Nishikawa as its president.

Some are supportive of Hatoyama, saying he has every right to state his position on the issue because as internal affairs and communications minister he has approval authority over personnel affairs. Hatoyama has been upping the ante on the issue, saying he will stick to his position even at the cost of his job.

But the fuss serves only to derail discussion over the reappointment. If political considerations color the debate, the essential point of the discussion will be lost.

The thrust of the criticism against Hatoyama is that politicians should not interfere in decisions made by private corporations.

But Japan Post Holdings is a special case, in that all its shares are held by the government. In this regard, it would be problematic if the government were

to remain silent at a time when questions have emerged over the operation of Japan Post Holdings.

There is also an argument that the process of postal privatization will be set back if Nishikawa, who led preparations for the establishment of the company, is ousted as its president.
But this argument is illogical. The fact is that Hatoyama has repeatedly said he wants to see Nishikawa replaced precisely because he wishes to speed up the privatization.


Sale of inns was opaque

The main bone of contention in the wrangling over Nishikawa's reappointment is the lack of transparency in the process of Japan Post Holdings deciding to sell Kanpo no Yado inns to an Orix Group company.

An investigation by the communications ministry found a large number of irregular practices in the process of selecting the Orix real estate company, including verbal reporting of important matters. A third-party panel set up at the request of Japan Post Holdings also identified a long list of problems in connection with the sale of the Kanpo no Yado inns, including inadequate safekeeping of documents related to the bidding for the inns. The panel criticized these failings as "extremely inappropriate."

Those who call for Nishikawa's reappointment point out that the investigations did not uncover any illegalities.
But putting to one side the question of whether there was any illegality in the process of selling the Kanpo no Yado inns, the buck stops with Nishikawa, the top manager of Japan Post.

The Democratic Party of Japan and two other opposition parties have filed a criminal complaint against Nishikawa, claiming he was complicit in the sale of the Kanpo no Yado inns at knockdown prices. The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has accepted the complaint. Debates over whether there is evidence of illegality in the process of deciding on the sale of the inns can wait until the prosecutors conclude their investigation.


Firm must put house in order

In addition to the controversy over the sale of the inns, the Japan Post group has become engulfed in other scandals, including the abuse of the postal discount system for disabled people and Japan Post's delayed investigation into the nonpayment of postal life insurance when it was a public corporation.
If such scandals surfaced in an ordinary company, the top manager would be forced to resign.

Japan Post Holdings has not yet responded to a business improvement order issued by the communications ministry. Deciding on the reappointment of Nishikawa at such a time is mixing up business priorities. At its own initiative, Japan Post Holdings should take the logical step of putting the presidential

appointment issue on the back burner and respond quickly to the business improvement order.

In its response to the order, will the company answer all the questions the ministry posed? Will the response present effective ways to prevent a recurrence of similar problems? Most importantly, will the response earn the understanding and acceptance of the public, who are effectively shareholders of Japan Post Holdings?

The debate over who should assume the presidency of Japan Post Holdings can start afresh after we see how Japan Post Holdings responds to the business improvement order.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 6, 2009)
(2009年6月6日01時38分  読売新聞)


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