Administrative burden represents the costs to businesses, citizens and the administration itself of complying with government-imposed regulations and procedures. The costs can be direct, i.e. time and money spent on fulfilling paperwork and other formal requirements, or indirect, e.g. reducing the productivity of sectors of the economy, reducing regulatory certainty, or alienating segments of the society with “regulatory irritants”. For example, in the European Union, the direct cost of administrative burden was estimated in 2007 to vary from 1.5% GDP in the UK to 6.8% GDP in Hungary, and amounted to more than 600 billion euros per year. Administrative burden tends to increase with new forms of public governance that rely less on direct decision and action undertaken by traditional government bureaucracies, and more on government creating and regulating the environment for other, non-state actors to jointly address public needs. Further burden increases are likely as more data will be needed to inform and track the impact of complex policy decisions, to ensure policy coherence and to adapt policy responses to specific local and sectoral settings inline with the 2030 for Sustainable Development Agenda.
Against this trend, Administrative Burden Reduction (ABR) and its various manifestations like re-engineering of administrative processes, provision of multi-service shops for citizens, risk-based approach to regulation and enforcement, ongoing review of legislative stocks, etc. has been high on the agenda of many countries. At the times of financial pressures, freeing resources tied to redundant administrative compliance to be reinvested e.g. in job creation and economic recovery are receiving non-partisan support. For example, the European Commission established the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme under which 300 legislative proposals were withdrawn since 2006 and 53 in 2014 alone, 350 assessments were carried out before proposing new legislations, and administrative burden on businesses was reduced by 26% generating 32 billion euro savings per year. The second wave of ABR initiatives is expected to include the burden imposed on citizens and administration, to complement quantitative measurement with qualitative methods, to assess costs and benefits of such initiatives, to integrate ABR with other regulatory reform programs such as ex-post simplification and ex-ante assessment, and to rely on Electronic Governance (EGOV).
The aim of the project is to explore how EGOV can be utilized as a tool for ABR including but not limited to the following methods: 1) “once only” – no part of administration can request information from a customer that any other part of administration previously received from this customer; 2) “personalisation” – a customer can express its preferences for interacting with administration, which then applies such preferences to make the interactions as simple as possible; 3) “proactive delivery” – the administration knows the circumstances of a customer and proactively delivers services it knows that the customer needs; and 4) “digital by default” – a customer interacts with administration using digital channels unless there are reasons to the contrary. The project will collect research findings; develop cases of EGOV-based ABR initiatives; propose policy recommendations for EGOV-based ABR ready for adaptation to different development contexts; run two pilots to validate such recommendations in Portugal and Colombia; develop courseware on EGOV-based ABR for Government Chief Information Officers and their counterparts responsible for Administrative Modernization, and deliver such courseware in the piloted and other countries.