This all began with the agency, the Service Design Engineering Council, actually carried out only a fraction of that work, local media reported last month. Service Design was co-founded by Dentsu Group Inc. It is one of Japan’s most influential companies. It has passed hundreds of millions of dollars to administer the project back to Dentsu, an advertising and PR company with close ties to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), government documents show.  

Under this current arrangement, Service Design won the contract to distribute the $20 billion, but actually took less than 1% of the total $718 million for managing the project and passed on most of the rest to Dentsu. This set up began vetting procedures, websites and call centres, the companies and the Ministry of Economy.  

Dentsun had subcontracted the work again through its subsidiaries. The ministry has stated that there would be five tiers of subcontractors and at least 63 companies involved. Officials have disclosed the names of only 14 of those; the government has not fully accounted for contracts worth at least $247 million, about one-third of the total. (Source: India Today)  

This sort of an arrangement led to confusion and delays for small business owners. Members of parliament have questioned how taxpayers’ money was spent during a national emergency. 

Controversy over the contract – one of the largest that Japan has outsourced from its pandemic budget – is widening for Abe’s government, already facing a fall in public support over its handling of the pandemic. Questions are mounting from opposition politicians about the government’s links to Dentsu, a publicly listed company. At issue is whether Service Design helped shield Dentsu’s leading role from scrutiny. The government and Dentsu have come under fire in the past for their close ties. 

 

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