U.K. offers model of regulation reform

Friday - 1/28/2011, 3:12pm EST

Jitinder Kohli, fellow, Center for American Progress

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President Obama issued an executive order for agencies to "root out" regulations that overlap, aren't worth the cost or are "just plain dumb," he wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

But how can agencies take those principles and turn them into reality?

The U.S. government can look to a similar initiative in the British government, called the Better Regulation Unit.

The unit, formed in 2005, was headed by Jitinder Kohli, who spent 15 years working for the British government before becoming a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Kohli told the DorobekINSIDER that the United Kingdom's first step toward reform was to measure the impact of its regulations. British businesses were asked how long it took them to fill out government forms, which regulatory agencies were most difficult to deal with, which processes were the most confusing to comply with, and so on.

"For the first time, people in government agencies and departments understood where the costs were coming from," Kohli said.

Then agencies were required to cut the costs of those regulations by 25 percent over a five-year period. The government, in effect, was able to commit to taking out 3.5 billion pounds out of the cost of regulation, Kohli said.

The Better Regulation Unit also created a system of regulators for the regulators.

"Actually, in most countries, nobody actually checks if the regulators are doing their jobs in the right way," Kohli said.

For one or two weeks, employees from other agencies examined a regulator, including testing the website for accessibility and talking to the businesses affected by that regulator, Kohli said. This system created a "peer-review type" process, he added.

The unit also set up a website for businesses to offer suggestions. Agencies had to respond to those suggestions within 90 days, he said.

Sometimes the agency response was simply that it was too difficult to change a regualtion, but the feedback introduced a greater level of accountability and transparency, Kohli said.

As the Obama administration begins to set the foundation for a modern regulatory system, Kohli said it's important to remember that the point is not to simply get rid of regulations that don't work but also to improve on the ones that exist now.

"More often than not, there's a better way to do something rather than stop doing it," Kohli said.

Read Kohli's article published on the Center for American Progress website.

RELATED LINKS

Fact sheet on executive order

OMB Regulatory Strategy

Survey by National Audit Office

Report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Read Kohli's article published on the Center for American Progress website.

RELATED LINKS

Survey by National Audit Office

Report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)