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News Navigator: What is the role of the Financial Bureau?

The Osaka National Government Office Building No. 4 in Osaka's Chuo Ward that houses the Finance Ministry's Kinki Local Finance Bureau is seen in this June 19, 2017 file photo. (Mainichi)

Amid the scandal-hit sale of government-owned land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen, the Financial Bureau of the Ministry of Finance has become the focus point as officials admitted to altering documents related to the deal. The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about the function of the bureau.

    Question: What kind of place is the Financial Bureau?

    Answer: The Japanese name for the bureau, "rizai," is an old word meaning "the operation of assets and property," and the Financial Bureau is tasked with the management of government property like land and administrative buildings. It also is in charge of issuing government bonds. Other bureaus of the Finance Ministry include the Budget Bureau, in charge of the creation of the national budget, the Tax Bureau, which draws up the national tax system, the Customs and Tariff Bureau, which lays out the customs and tariffs system, and the International Bureau, tasked with coordinating with the governments of other nations in the field of economic policy. Including the Finance Minister's Secretariat, which handles things like personnel and hiring, the ministry headquarters has a staff of some 1,700 people, approximately 360 of whom work for the Financial Bureau.

    Q: Is the sale of government land also handled by the bureau?

    A: The government owns about 17.9 trillion yen worth of land as of the end of the 2016 fiscal year, and excluding land that cannot be sold, there is still roughly 400 billion yen worth of unused land available. The government lends or sells this unused land to local governments or private institutions to be utilized for facilities like schools or public parks. The Financial Bureau sets the procedures for the sale or lease of this land, and the fine details of the transactions are actually carried out by 10 local bureaus and branch offices all over the country.

    Q: What is the organization of the Kinki Local Finance Bureau that decided to sell a state-owned land lot to Moritomo Gakuen?

    A: The bureau is in charge of the six prefectures that make up the Kinki Region, including Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, and employs roughly 600 personnel. Along with managing the government-owned land and other assets in its jurisdiction, it also holds hearings with local companies to grasp economic trends in the region.

    Q: What is the relationship between the National Tax Agency, where Nobuhisa Sagawa served as chief, and the Finance Ministry?

    A: The National Tax Agency is an "extra-ministerial bureau" of the Finance Ministry, and is responsible for the practice of collecting taxes. Such a bureau is an administrative agency that performs specialized or highly independent government affairs, and the tax agency has 524 tax offices nationwide and over 50,000 employees. Among the chiefs of the agency are many who have had experience first working as the head of the various Finance Ministry bureaus, and Sagawa himself was promoted to chief of the tax agency after serving as the chief of the Financial Bureau. (Answers by Mikako Yokoyama, Economic News Department)

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