Comparing Regulatory Oversight Bodies Across the Atlantic: The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the US and the Impact Assessment Board in the EU
‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ asked the Roman poet Juvenal – ‘who will watch the watchers, who will guard the guardians?’ As legislative and regulatory processes around the globe progressively put greater emphasis on impact assessment and accountability, we ask: who oversees the regulators? Although regulation can often be necessary and beneficial, it can also impose its own costs. As a result, many governments have embraced, or are considering embracing, regulatory oversight--frequently relying on economic analysis as a tool of evaluation. We are especially interested in the emergence over the last four decades of a new set of institutional actors, the Regulatory Oversight Bodies (ROBs). These bodies tend to be located in the executive (or sometimes the legislative) branch of government. They review the flow of new regulations using impact assessment and benefit-cost analysis, and they sometimes also appraise existing regulations to measure and reduce regulatory burdens. Through these procedures of regulatory review, ROBs have become an integral aspect not only of regulatory reform programs in many countries, but also of their respective administrative systems.
Although most academic attention focuses on the analytical tools used to improve the quality of legislation, such as regulatory impact assessment (RIA) or benefit-cost analysis, this chapter instead identifies the key concepts and issues surrounding the establishment and operation of ROBs across governance systems. It does so by examining and comparing the oversight mechanisms that have been established in the United States and in the EU and by critically looking into their origins, rationales, mandates, institutional designs and scope of oversight.