Regulatory Scrutiny Board Report 2016: the quality of EU impact assessment

The Regulatory Scrutiny Board (RSB) is an independent body within the Commission, which is in charge of examining the quality of all impact assessments, major evaluations and fitness checks of existing legislation. The Board was established in 2015 (C/2015/3263) to replace the Impact Assessment Board (IAB), with reinforced independence and enhanced responsibility.

Credits image: European Commission, Annual Report 2016 – Regulatory Scrutiny Board, p. 11

The RSB Annual Report 2016, published last February, illustrates the results of the first years of operation of the Board. It is worth noticing that, compared to the report of activity that the IAB annually presented to the European Commission, the RSB annual report is directed to the general public as it provides a general overview of the structure and functioning of the Board, besides analytical data on the Board’s work in 2016.

The report stress that the seven-member Board now includes three members recruited from outside the Commission, in order to guarantee greater independence of the Body. The activity of the Board includes not only the quality control of forward-looking impact assessment, but also “fitness check” and significant ex post evaluations of existing policies. In addition, the Board provides quality assurance to the political level of the Commission and helps the Commission to improve draft impact assessments before their finalization by the Commission Services. The RSB also promotes the overall coherence and consistency across proposed policy measures.

The report describes the work of the Board. For impact assessment, the opinion can be positive or negative. In case of a negative opinion, the IA report need to be substantially revised and resubmitted to the Board for a second review. Even when delivering a positive opinion, the RSB may provide reservations or recommendations, which should be considered in the final version of IA. In 2016, the Board reviews 60 IA, of these, 25 received a negative opinion. The report presents statistics about structural issues raised in Board opinions. In particular, it shows that common weakness has been problem definition and development of options. The stakeholder consultation exercises are not always used to their potential as a source of evidence. The report also shows analytical issues that received attention in 2016 opinions and examine how draft impact assessments have improved following an initial negative opinion.

With regard to the quality assessment of evaluation, the Board issued opinion on seven evaluation in 2016, without giving overall ratings. From 2017, the RSB will be issuing positive and negative opinions on evaluations. The report underlines that the Board sees evaluations together with the impact assessment and can include its assessment of the quality in the opinion it provides on the impact assessment. The activity of the RBS shows that at least half of the evaluation applied the “evaluate first” principle.

Finally, the report makes broad observations and provides an overview of three topics that have characterized the Board’s work in 2016. First, the work concerning the implementation of the Commission’s 10 priorities. Second, the practice of stakeholder consultation. Third, the experience with REFIT, which is leading to improved quantification.


(Eleonora Cavalieri)