This research addresses the policy implications of performance-based approaches to regulation. Differences in the form of performance-based regulation arise in thinking about how to characterize performance outcomes, what constitutes desired achievements, and how to measure the level of performance that is obtained. Implementing performance-based regulation is as much about changes in regulatory regimes as it is about introduction of performance-based standards.
Four sets of experiences with performance-based regulatory regimes are examined: (1) the “leaky building crisis” in New Zealand that illustrates shortfalls in accountability; (2) food-safety regulatory reforms that illustrate difficulties in linking standards and causes; (3) performance-based approaches to fire safety that illustrate implementation issues more generally; and (4) nuclear power plant safety that illustrates the difficulty of measuring safety outcomes. The research is based on documentation from governmental and other secondary sources of the experiences with the selected performance-based regulatory regimes.
The contrast between these cases indicates that any performance-based regulatory regime must confront a fundamental issue of how tight controls should be in promoting consistency and accountability versus how much discretion should be granted in promoting flexibility and innovation. Given this, accountability for results can legitimately be considered the Achilles’ heel of performance-based regulation.
Keywords: performance-based regulation, regulatory implementation, regulatory policy
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