Policy Evaluation in the Government of Japan: The Former First Secretary of the Japanese Embassy in Washington, DC Compares His Country's 2002 Government Policy Evaluation Act with the US Government's 1993 Government Performance and Results Act

By Yoshimuta, Tsuyoshi | The Public Manager, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

Policy Evaluation in the Government of Japan: The Former First Secretary of the Japanese Embassy in Washington, DC Compares His Country's 2002 Government Policy Evaluation Act with the US Government's 1993 Government Performance and Results Act


Yoshimuta, Tsuyoshi, The Public Manager


Like the United States, the Government of Japan has devoted substantial effort in recent years to developing relevant performance measures for assessing the effectiveness of its ministries in meeting the needs of Japanese citizens. In the US, the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) was enacted in 1993 and performance measurement settled down in the federal government through pilot projects. President Bush's 2003 budget submission to Congress on February 4, 2002 marked a significant step on the long road to a results-oriented government by using performance measures to develop policies, to make budget decisions, and to improve everyday program management. The president's submission described Japan as among those countries developing measures of assessing outputs and outcomes in order to better manage program results. Japan was described as being "still in the early phases of transforming to an outcome-focused approach." Within months, Japan's Government Policy Evaluation Act (GPEA) went into effect.

This article outlines the status of GPEA implementation within the Japanese government. As such, it provides practitioners and analysts with a basis for comparing US and Japanese government reform efforts, highlighting the similarities and differences between GPEA and GPRA. An historical overview and assessment of the current status of GPEA implementation follows. The article concludes by identifying emerging themes.

Policy Evaluation in Japan Prior to GPEA

Before GPEA, there were two types of administrative inspection and audit--external and internal. Government organs did internal checks on their business, financial procedures, and service discipline. As for external checks, the Board of Audit, as an independent body of the executive branch, was responsible primarily for auditing revenues and expenditures of the nation and adjusting the nation's credits and liabilities. In addition, the Administrative Inspection Bureau of the Management and Coordination Agency (MCA) was responsible for governmentwide administrative inspection, similar to US General Accounting Office's (GAO) program evaluation, as a quasi-external check. Cost benefit analysis was used for public works projects, but it was used primarily to request funding or to justify a project before the project had been approved rather than after it had begun.

GPEA No Mere Reincarnation of GPRA

As is described later in this article, 22 ministries and agencies were reorganized into about half the number of ministries by the Hashimoto Administrative Reform in January 2001. A policy evaluation system throughout the government was initiated concurrently. First, new government ministries assumed responsibility for evaluating policy, altering the planning and development of their policy accordingly, and providing the public with information on policy evaluation. Additionally, the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs and Posts and Telecommunications (MPHPT) took on the function of governmentwide policy evaluation. These changes ensured that policy evaluation was done in a comprehensive and objective manner throughout the government.

The MPHPT was established by integrating the MCA, which was responsible for public management affairs such as freedom of information and administrative procedures, and two other ministries. MPHPT's Administrative Evaluation Bureau was founded by developing the Administrative Inspection Bureau at the MCA.

Soon after the MPHPT was established, it studied overseas examples of policy evaluation, including GPRA, and began writing proposed legislation for government policy evaluation. The Government Policy Evaluation Act passed in June 2001 and came into effect in April 2002. Policy evaluation, then, was institutionalized legally in the Japanese government. Policy evaluation in GPEA means a general idea covering project evaluation (e.g., cost benefit analysis on public works), performance evaluation (which corresponds to GPRA's performance measurement), comprehensive evaluation (which is similar to GAO's program evaluation), and regulatory impact analysis.

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