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Friday 15/09/2017
Written by: Maurice Diamond

PPP or not PPP, that is the question?

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The problem with any new or rebranded methodology is that every consultancy rebadges its consultants to demonstrate they have significant track record in this particular discipline and are therefore should be the advisor of choice when you want to access the professional skills. Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) was one such methodology, I remember having to sit through a seminar at a large global consultancy where the new BPR methodology was explained, and I was told how all my previous work on my CV needed to be rebadged as BPR! However, time moves on, and I accept that badging and branding changes.

Unfortunately, PPP (Public Private Partnerships) suffered from this behaviour and as the awareness of something called PPP grew, true to form, consultancies identifying a new pot of gold started to rebrand their consultants. It is amazing that according to CVs, Linked-in etc, with relatively few procurements internationally badged as a PPP (a few thousand at most) compared to the overall number of project based contracts signed every year that literally thousands of consultants appear to have been involved specifically on a PPP project.

In many cases, because understanding was limited, all procurements that included outsourcing were rebadged and rebranded as PPP. This has proven to be a major pitfall in the effective development of PPP.

It also appears that despite every possible international definition of PPP specifically excluding privatisation from the scope of PPP there are those that still think it is part of the PPP spectrum of government partnering – after all isn’t privatisation about the private sector taking on public sector services!

This approach to rebadging consultants has had one of two impacts. Either consultants

  • have continued to undertake traditional outsourcing and procurement projects and said that they are PPPs, or
  • have taken an existing PPP best practice manual from one country and copied and pasted into a new manual for another. In turn, the “new” manual will be copied by the same or another set of consultants and adopted by another country.

This has happened without any tailoring or understanding of PPP or the specific environment and needs of the country.

I have heard presenters at conferences explaining why PPP has not worked for them, only to learn that the “PPP” projects referred to have few or no characteristics of a PPP and that the consultants used clearly had little knowledge or experience of PPP projects.

The clamour to undertake something called PPP and the potential to earn a living had created an environment of confusion, continual reinvention of the wheel and, nugatory cost to the public sector and international agencies alike. However, by taking the lead in developing the CP3P curriculum the World Bank through APMG has developed a tool that puts an end to this confusion.

The team that has developed the curriculum must be congratulated as they have had to identify best practice from across the world, and then separate the generic (principles that can be applied everywhere) from the specific (something that may work well in a particular or limited location). They have done this whilst at the same time creating a common global language for all. Thus, enabling conversations to take place that are meaningful between all parties without the confusion that has existed to date.

The team has created a compendium of learning and understanding that can be accessed at a high or detailed level by PPP practitioners, the private sector, third sector, politicians and at a high level by others who need to have sufficient knowledge to be engaged and to ask the right questions, when

  • procuring consultants,
  • devising a PPP framework,
  • taking a view on whether a project will work well as a PPP or
  • undertaking a PPP project.

Together with the generic approach (with specific options and ideas), the curriculum accesses important case studies that support the learning and identifies tools that can be used.

Therefor we now have a truly global framework with common concepts and approaches that can support public servants, lawyers and financiers as well as procurement and project consultants and commercial professional that want to undertake PPP work. Not every PPP will be successful but this is a great curriculum that provides knowledge that is required to maximise the opportunity for success and deliver effective - sustainable, bankable, affordable and value for money - public private partnerships. 

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