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Missing minutes of meetings

October 9, 2012



Fukushima gov't hastily compiled minutes of experts' meetings over health survey



FUKUSHIMA -- The prefectural government here hastily compiled the minutes of meetings by experts on a survey on the nuclear crisis' impact on local residents' health and released the details only after being asked by a local resident to disclose such documents, it has been learned.

A Fukushima Prefectural Government official reportedly compiled the minutes based on his notes but the number of pages is less than half that for later sessions.

A critic has pointed out that the act has damaged the confidence in official documents.

"Under the freedom of information system, government organizations are supposed to disclose documents that they created if requested to do so. If such bodies are allowed to compile documents after being asked to disclose them, they could create documents to their own advantage," said Yukiko Miki, leader of a nonprofit organization working on the disclosure of government information. "Such an act could damage the public's confidence in disclosed public information. It's even worse than the national government's failure to compile minutes on meetings on the Great East Japan Earthquake."

An official with the prefectural government's health and welfare department, who compiled the minutes, said he was too busy when the first to third meetings were held to note the details. "The first three meetings were in chaos. I knew I would have to compile the minutes but later forgot to do so. I was worried because the national government's failure to compile such minutes was called into question."

The official of the health and welfare department, which serves as the secretariat of the panel, compiled the minutes of the fourth session of the experts' panel on Oct. 17 last year and for later meetings of the panel, and posted them on the prefectural government's website.

In early April this year, a man living in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Koriyama noticed that the minutes of the first to third sessions had not been uploaded to the website, and asked for access to the documents under the prefectural government's freedom of information ordinance.

However, the minutes of the first three sessions had not been compiled by that time.

The official in charge hastily compiled the minutes of these sessions based on his notes and showed them to the man in mid-April before uploading them to the prefectural government's website. At the time, the national government was under fire for failing to compile the minutes of meetings on the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Each of these minutes consists of less than 10 pages, less than half those of the fourth and later sessions, each of which is about 20 to 30 pages.

The prefectural government is now investigating allegations that the prefectural government held secret "preparatory" meetings to coordinate views among panel members prior to its official meetings, and is expected to announce the results shortly.




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