Regulations are indispensable for the proper function of economies and the society. They create the “rules of the game” for citizens, business, government and civil society. They underpin markets, protect the rights and safety of citizens and ensure the delivery of public goods and services. The objective of regulatory policy is to ensure that the regulatory lever works effectively, so that regulations and regulatory frameworks are in the public interest.
The quality of the regulatory environment and the delivery of regulatory outcomes is not only based on how regulations are designed. In the last decade, OECD countries have been investing time and resources in examining the need for regulation and assessing regulatory options. Most governments have outlined their policy on improving the design of regulation through regulatory impact analysis and stakeholder engagement mechanisms, often with the support of central scrutiny for proposed new regulations. As well as improving the design of new regulation, nearly all OECD countries have searched for opportunities to remove unnecessary burdens on the business community and citizens.
Regulatory enforcement has been overshadowed by these initiatives in most OECD countries so far. Scarce attention has been paid to examining possibilities for improving the way regulations are implemented and enforced. Nonetheless, the delivery of regulatory outcomes cannot be effective without a proper enforcement of regulations. Inspections are one of the most important ways to enforce regulations and to ensure regulatory compliance. Even though inspections are usually considered as sector specific, there are many core activities that inspections have in common and that are universal for all or most sectors where inspections take place.
The way inspections are planned, their better targeting, communication with regulated subjects, preventing corruption and ethical behaviour – these are just few examples of issues that can be addressed generally, across sectors and inspection authorities. The organisation of inspections and the governance of inspection authorities are other issues that could and should be solved through a cross-cutting policy.