Doc No. 3:10 (2004-2005) The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation of the simplification of regulations and the reduction in the number of forms to be submitted by the business community was submitted to the Storting on 15 June 2005. The purpose of the investigation was to shed light on the results that have been achieved with regard to the Storting’s intentions that the burden placed on the business sector by the regulatory framework and the number of forms should be reduced. An investigation was also carried out into whether the enactment of new regulations by the central government has been designed with a view to avoiding placing an unnecessary burden on the business community. An assessment was also made of the extent to which the compulsory submission of returns to central government has been organised so as to reduce the pressure placed on businesses by the amount of forms.
A 2.9 per cent reduction in the amount of forms for completion by the business sector was experienced between 1998 and the first half of 2004 (inclusive). This modest reduction can be explained by the fact that the two government agencies responsible for the heaviest load, namely the Norwegian Tax Administration and the Norwegian Directorate of Customs and Excise, have only reduced their number of forms by a relatively small percent. The number of central government regulations principally aimed at the business sector fell by 3.3 per cent between 2002 and 2004, a reduction which has been counteracted by the volume of regulations which saw a 12.5 per cent increase during the same period. Well over half of the 4 500 small and medium-sized business covered by the OAG’s investigation and which replied to our survey, have experienced an increase in the number of regulations to be complied with during the last three years. In addition, 39 per cent of them believe they utilise more of their resources in submitting forms now than was the case two or three years ago.
The consequences of new regulations for businesses has not been clarified and explained to any great extent in central government’s regulatory framework. In six of the seven regulatory cases investigated the business sector’s costs of complying with the regulations had not been calculated.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry has pointed out that the relatively modest reduction in the amount of forms does not in fact explain the extent of the work already completed. Seventeen government agencies contributed to this reduction during 2004. The Ministry is also of the opinion that the Office of the Auditor General’s investigation should have included an internationally based comparison in this field to ascertain how favourably the Norwegian process of regulatory simplification matches that of naturally comparable countries. The Ministry wishes to emphasise the fact that several investigations show that Norway possesses a large number of advantages in the field of regulations for the business community.
Delayed public announcement of documents compiled by or for the Office of the Auditor General pursuant to Document 3:10 (2004-2005) has been lifted, cf. the Governmental Audit Act, section 18, subsection 2.