How to undertake a Regulatory Audit

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This website posting will help you find out what a regulatory audit is, the benefits and limitations of undertaking an audit, and how to undertake your own audit.

What is a regulatory audit?

A regulatory audit is a comprehensive review of regulations, standards and administrative procedures relating to urban land development. It provides a record of all the laws, byelaws, decrees and other official norms that seek to determine what developers, land-owners, communities and residents are entitled to do with and on urban land. In their entirety, these various norms constitute the regulatory framework for urban planning and building. Unless specified, they should apply equally to all those groups, organisations or individuals seeking to acquire, develop or transfer urban land.

A regulatory audit should assess the scope and nature of the regulatory framework and its impact on enabling land and housing markets to operate in ways which enable all sections of the population, especially the poor and vulnerable groups, such as women, to obtain legal land, shelter, services and credit.

Why do a regulatory audit?

Laws, regulations and other official requirements relating to urban land development are usually extremely complicated. In many cases, this is because they have been in place for many years and may even have been inherited from colonial administrations. Subsequent changes may have imposed different requirements without necessarily removing the earlier ones from the statute book. At the same time, requirements may have different levels of official status, in that some may be mandatory and others discretionary. Some may be imposed nationally by central government, and others by provincial or local authorities, many of which may not be applicable consistently.

As if these complications were not enough, the language used may be in English or another language not widely understood locally and the style of writing may be full of terms and phrases only comprehensible to professionals.

For all of these reasons, a regulatory audit can help to clarify what people are expected to do in order to meet official requirements. However, an audit serves a more useful policy objective. It enables those responsible for formulating and implementing the myriad requirements to assess the extent to which changes may be necessary in order to ensure that the regulatory framework is consistent with urban planning and management policy objectives. Requirements based on outdated assumptions or objectives, (such as protecting the earlier interests of colonial elites), or inappropriate conditions (such as high levels of economic development), can be removed or revised to reflect current realities and expectations of the population. An audit can highlight those aspects of planning regulations, standards and administrative procedures which can ensure that the regulatory framework facilitates planned development and meets the needs of all sections of the population, not just an affluent minority.

What benefits can a regulatory audit offer?

Regulatory audits provide urban managers with an objective basis for identifying and monitoring individual components of the regulatory framework. This can help measure their impact on facilitating planned development and reducing the need for squatting and other forms of unauthorised development. They can therefore form a key tool in the development of pro-poor urban development strategies.

What are the limitations of a regulatory audit?

As with any audit, the value of a regulatory audit depends largely on the accuracy and level of information available. Collecting information on the relevant legislation, planning and building codes is a time consuming, though not difficult task. However, assessing the extent to which a specific component represents a constraint to accessing legal shelter for the poor will depend on obtaining the views of those directly involved and this requires time, sensitivity and a degree of independence. This suggests that it is preferable for a local NGO or university to be commissioned to undertake the audit.

Download detailed guidelines for how to undertake a regulatory audit

Download a sample regulatory audit table

Once you have read our guidelines or tried your own audit please help us out with feedback, contributions, comments and ideas – we will be very happy to hear from you.

If you wish to receive more information about this and any other projects undertaken by Geoffrey Payne and Associates, please email us via our contact page and we will be pleased to include you in a mailing list of project updates.

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