Japan govt found tampering with construction works data

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry had tampered with data for statistics on construction works since 2013, it was learned Wednesday.

The ministry was found rewriting data regarding orders for domestic construction works projects from public institutions and private firms, which is one of the core statistics used in calculating Japan’s gross domestic product. It double-counted some data to overestimate the number of orders.

The ministry corrected its data calculation procedures in April this year to end the double-counting.

The data tampering may constitute a violation of the statistics law, and the ministry is investigating the facts of how the miscounting began.

Infrastructure minister Tetsuo Saito admitted to and apologized for the data tampering at a meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives on the same day.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also expressed regret over the data tampering, saying that the government must make efforts to prevent recurrences.

The admission came after a question from Takeshi Shina of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, who called for launching a third-party investigation into the matter.

When the ministry introduced the current statistics method for construction works orders in April 2013, it allowed businesses that could not complete their surveys on time every month to submit multiple months’ worth of data in one survey to make up for their failures to report data from past months.

The ministry also adopted a rule under which the statistics would use estimate figures for businesses failing to submit their surveys on time instead of booking zero orders.

This caused the ministry to sometimes count both the actual figures from businesses that submitted multiple months’ worth of data all together and their estimate figures.

The ministry had ordered prefectural governments to rewrite businesses’ surveys to make them look as though those who reported multiple months’ worth of data received all the orders in the latest month.

A ministry source said that the aim of allowing submissions of multiple months’ worth of data all at once was to reduce the burden on small businesses, and that “there was no intention to manipulate figures.”

In late 2018, the government was found padding monthly employment data collected by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. This led to the erosion of trust in the country’s statistics collection.