Privatisation of building code enforcement: a comparative study of regimes in Australia and Canada

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    Purpose - The paper aims to document the effects of the privatisation of building code enforcement regimes. It notes that privatisation is generally accompanied by trade?offs between competing democratic values such as effectiveness, efficiency, accountability, and equity and explores the extent to which particular trade?offs might be related to aspects of the design of the regimes in which they occur. Design/methodology/approach - The paper uses a comparative case study analysis of two Australian and two Canadian privatised building control regimes. This comparison is based on semi?structured interviews with key actors in the building and building control industries. Findings - Evidence of the expected trade?offs between competing democratic values is found in the privatised regimes within the case study. Some of these might be explained in terms of the extent of private sector involvement (PSI) in a regime, or of the nature of the relationship between the public and the private sectors within it. However, not all trade?offs are necessarily related to these characteristics. Overall, PSI deliver an increase in effectiveness and efficiency but at a particular cost of public accountability. A competitive, rather than a complementary, relationship between the private and public sectors in a privatised regime is also found to be more likely to generate problems related to the equity of the service being provided. Research limitations/implications - The case studies are explorative in nature and the research does not therefore claim empirical generalization, but instead provides illustrations of the impacts that might result from privatising building code enforcement. The paper is largely based on a series of interviews. The findings should be understood as the aggregated opinions of the interviewees. Practical implications - Based on the case study analysis, the paper draws important conclusions for policymakers in this area. It suggests that privatisation should be performed with the utmost care and highlights positive features of the regimes studied that might indicate some of the ingredients of a successful privatisation. These include providing private sector inspectors with the opportunity to specialize, confining PSI to assessment tasks, and ensuring that a complementary relationship exists between the private and public sectors within the privatised regime. Originality/value - The paper makes original contributes to existing literature on the impact of the "policy mix" on regulatory governance, and on the trade?offs which result from the introduction of the private sector into regulatory governance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)60-75
    JournalInternational Journal of Law in the Built Environment
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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