Gov't loses 255 documents in FY 2012, up 40%

The government said Thursday it lost or discarded by mistake 255 official documents in fiscal 2012, up from 181 in the previous year.

Around 14.24 million public documents were in the possession of ministries and government agencies as of the end of fiscal 2012 last March, according to the government's report submitted to a panel of experts under the Public Records and Archives Management Law.

Under the state secrecy law enacted last month, declassified documents on "special secrets" will also be treated as administrative documents covered by the law, but the issue of proper management has been a matter of concern.

While the law requires that ministers set a retention period and expiration date for each document and decide prior to expiration whether to archive or dispose of it, decisions have yet to be made on around 2.36 million of the total, the report said.

Administrative reform minister Tomomi Inada, who is in charge of the management of public records, told the panel meeting, "It is our duty to future generations to properly manage official documents as they are the infrastructure of democracy."

Of the 255 items, 187 were simply lost and 68 were discarded by mistake. By ministry and agency, the National Tax Agency accounted for the largest number at 126, followed by the Justice Ministry at 61 and the National Police Agency at 29.

Only five government officials were punished under the national public service law in connection with the lost documents, with most others involved receiving mild reprimands or guidance.