Institutional Arrangements

Principle 1 : Agency mandates and powers.
Laws should provide Environmental Agencies with clearly-defined mandates, responsibilities, and resources to protect public health and the environment.

Laws establishing an EA should define its mandate and powers in the context of government policies on the protection of public health and the environment, and sustainable development. An EA should measure the results of compliance and enforcement efforts with regard to national policies and environmental improvements.

Legislation should clearly define the goals, responsibilities, powers, and functions of an EA, as well as its relationship with other governmental bodies with environmental responsibilities. The legal framework should provide an EA with the power to promote or compel compliance with environmental requirements through regulatory incentives, technical assistance, or the threat of penalties.

An EA’s regulatory authority should encompass the full range of powers and responsibilities, including standard setting, permitting, monitoring and inspection, investigation, and enforcement actions. Since these powers and functions are interconnected, incomplete mandates can seriously limit the agency’s capacity to ensure compliance. The roles and responsibilities of an EA should not overlap or conflict with those of other governmental agencies.

An EA should have the institutional autonomy to develop and implement its compliance and enforcement program free from political intervention or external pressure related to economic development or other governmental or private sector priorities. The credibility of an EA will depend on the public’s perception of its independence.

Principle 2 : Subsidiarity and devolution.
Decision-making should be made at the lowest level that possesses the competency to effectively carry out the required tasks.

An EA should have a well-defined organizational structure that clearly identifies and assigns functional responsibilities at each organizational level. In keeping with the principle of subsidiarity, functional responsibilities and tasks should be handled at the lowest competent level. At the national level, an EA should perform only those tasks that cannot be performed effectively at a lower level.

While the overall trend in Asia is to decentralize and devolve compliance and enforcement authority, the national government should ensure that the compliance and enforcement program is consistent, uniform, and fair throughout the country. At a minimum, national agencies should retain authority on national standard-setting and policy-making, transboundary pollution, or potential to create pollution havens within certain administrative areas or localities. National agencies should also retain ultimate enforcement powers over responsibilities devolved to local authorities.

At the national level, an EA should build and strengthen the capacity of sub-national units, provide necessary oversight, implementation support and coordination, including providing policy guidance, training staff, reporting results, and establishing appropriate funding and reporting mechanisms. An EA should allocate resources in proportion to delegated responsibilities and capabilities.

Principle 3 : Inter-agency cooperation.
Governmental agencies with complementary enforcement and compliance responsibilities should cooperate closely through clearly defined coordination mechanisms that address strategic planning and implementation.

Where separate governmental agencies have complementary compliance and enforcement responsibilities, inter-agency cooperation is crucial for effective enforcement of environmental requirements. An EA should work with other related agencies to ensure effective cooperation and coordination. Relevant sectors and governmental functions include: health and safety, natural resources management, agriculture, energy, transportation, land use planning, economic development, and criminal investigation and customs.

In coordinating with other agencies, an EA should address gaps and overlaps in authority, and ambiguity in operational roles. A lack of cooperation and coordination among governmental agencies can result in competition for jurisdiction and budget. Possible inter-agency cooperation mechanisms can include: inter-agency agreements and governmental decrees that establish clear coordination procedures, and multi-agency committees or task forces. Sharing information among national and local agencies can also be an effective strategy for understanding their inter-linked responsibilities, and facilitating coordinated decision-making.