You can't know whether you are successful unless success is defined and tracked.
Regulation is essential for the proper functioning of governments, society, and the economy. It includes laws and/or other government-endorsed rules where there is an expectation of compliance. Regulators are responsible for ensuring appropriate standards are met to ensure community safety and to protect the environment and the rights of Queenslanders.
Regulators have accountability to government, regulated entities, and the public to enforce the law. They, therefore, need to report on how well they are achieving regulatory outcomes. This contributes to enhancing accountability of the regulatory environment, and also provides insights for learning and improving regulation and associated practices.
This blog article is the third in our series on better practices for regulators where we shine a light on the importance of regulation as a key function of government. Our first blog is Better practices for regulators – plan to be intelligence-led and our second blog is Better practices for regulators – taking action.
Last year we wrote to all public sector regulators and recommended they self-assess their regulatory approaches against the better practices we published in Regulating animal welfare services (Report 6: 2021–22). Entities’ self-reported status on implementing this recommendation will be included in our 2023 report on Status of Auditor-General’s recommendations.
Do you report on how well you achieve objectives?
Reporting against key performance measures with a focus on outcomes increases transparency and accountability of regulators and the regulated entities. In Queensland, some regulators report on the volume of their operational activities, such as the number of inspections they have undertaken, and/or the number of orders for compliance they have issued. These are important measures to account for the number of activities undertaken, however entities also need to demonstrate they are achieving the desired outcomes. Rarely do we see regulators reporting on how well they are achieving regulatory objectives.
To increase transparency of whether they are achieving their objectives, regulators should report on:
- the outcomes and impact of regulatory activities, such as trends in compliance or non-compliance and positive and negative impacts of regulation
- the rate of regulatory decisions revoked and/or substituted after internal review
- service outcomes relating to timely decisions, such as minimum, maximum, and average times for decisions.
Regulators should incorporate this reporting into their existing frameworks for monitoring strategic outcomes. This will make producing, reviewing, and evaluating performance easier. It is important regulators also have systems to store and reference information they use in their reports.
Regulators need to publicly report on indicators of their performance in meeting regulatory objectives. The performance reporting should include efficiency, economic, and quality measures against expectations, and the impact (or outcomes) of regulatory activities (for example, compliance trends).
Have you identified areas for improvement?
Regulators should understand where their activities are working well and what they can improve. Doing so means they can identify areas where staff need training and support, and can also help to ensure legislation remains relevant over time.
Some useful sources to gather information on areas for improvement include:
- input from internal and external stakeholders, including their experiences and what will help them when engaging in regulatory activities
- complaints management systems, which provide information for reflection and improvement of regulatory practices
- management reports on efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of services
- relevant legislation.
Regulators should periodically review and evaluate this information to inform their practices and to build a culture of continuous improvement. This is best achieved through fit-for-purpose systems that include data from the sources discussed above. The systems should be supported by new and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and automation, so entities can collect relevant information and report insights on the practices that need improvement.
Regulators need to implement processes for reviewing and continually improving the efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of their services. Their review can include input from internal and external stakeholders and from analysis of their complaints management systems. The review also needs to assess whether staff have necessary training and support to perform their role effectively and consistently.
- QAO blog: Better practices for regulators – plan to be intelligence-led
- QAO blog: Better practices for regulators – taking action
- Regulating animal welfare services (Report 6: 2021–22)
- QAO Better practice guide: Insights for regulators
- Regulating dam safety (Report 9: 2021–22)
- Regulating firearms (Report 8: 2020–21)
- Licensing builders and building trades (Report 16: 2019–20)
- Managing coal seam gas activities (Report 12: 2019–20)
- Managing consumer food safety in Queensland (Report 17: 2018–19)
- Managing transfers in pharmacy ownership (Report 4: 2018–19)
- Access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme for people with impaired decision-making capacity (Report 2: 2018–19)
- Follow-up of Managing water quality in Great Barrier Reef catchments (Report 16: 2017–18)
- Follow-up of Report 15: 2013–14 Environmental regulation of the resources and waste industries (Report 1: 2017–18)
- Environmental regulation of the resources and waste industries (Report 15: 2013–14).