is a professor of law and director of the Centre for Regulatory Studies at Monash University, Australia. A leading international analyst on privatization, outsourcing, and public -private partnerships, he has served as a special advisor to several parliamentary committees and inquiries. He has published in social and economic policy, public administration, law, governance, regulation, and management and has acted as a consultant on governance matters in Australasia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and China.
SYMPOSIUM Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are now a common strand of third way government policy, with better efficiency promised from the private funding of public infrastructure through the transfer of risks to private parties. This paper aims to investigate, on an empirical basis, the realities of risk transfers in PPPs and compare this experience against both the rhetoric of project proponents and the formal contract conditions. The paper outlines some conceptual frameworks underpinning PPPs and establishes the notions of risk shifting and risk sharing. The range of typical risks encountered in infrastructure projects is specially considered, and differences to traditional project delivery arrangements are articulated. Some empirical experience on the transfer of risks under PPPs is then outlined through a case study. This analysis shows the extent to which risks were shifted to the private parties as planned, or whether risks remained with government. It is argued that while commercial risks were largely well managed, governance risks were not. It is critical to understand better the nature of risk transfers in PPPs in view of the large financial implications of these deals along with long contract terms.
Private finance-based infrastructure public–private partnerships (P3s) are globally popular, including renewed interest in the United States, but their performance remains contested. This article explores the meaning of P3 and the notion of P3 success, and points to multiple interpretations of both. It proposes a new conceptual model of the P3 phenomenon, including five levels of meaning: project, delivery method, policy, governance tool, and cultural context. Numerous criteria exist on which the success of P3 might be judged. These are as oriented toward politics and governance as they are toward more traditional utilitarian policy goals concerned with project delivery, or value for money (VfM). Indeed, governments have dozens of different goals in mind. Given mixed international results to date for VfM, it is posited that to the extent that infrastructure P3s continue to show popularity, governments may stress P3 success more on the basis of political and governance strengths, than utilitarian characteristics.
Accepting that there is much confusion in current debates about the use of public-private partnerships for public infrastructure projects, the article begins by considering the emergence of the 'PPP phenomenon' as a 'governance scheme' and as a 'language game'. The existence of several types of so-called PPPs, and motives for them, is noted, as are criticism of loose assumptions about them in the debates. The argument then focuses on private finance initiative (PFI) schemes as one branch of cross-sectoral mixing arrangements, and examines the benefits and costs of using this mechanism. The conclusion is a pessimistic one: in the PFI arrangement, the potential for the interests of the advocating government and the business partners to dominate over the public interest has been palpable. There is an urgent need to explore further the merit of these infrastructure 'partnerships' to ensure that they do advance the public interest.
As well as better efficiency and improved services, privatization has also often promised improved accountability. But how does the empirical evidence on this look and what are the lessons here? This article looks at the notion of accountability and the degree to which privatizing public sector activities might improve or worsen such mechanisms. It then looks specifically at the different systems of accountability existing following three privatization activities in Victoria and compares these against that existing previously under public operation. The sale of electricity sector enterprises, the operation of urban rail service franchises, and the implementation of a public-private partnership project to supply transport infrastructure are adopted as case studies. For each case study, accountability systems are articulated and the operation of these systems is discussed. Overall, the article analyses the effectiveness of accountability systems now operating in the privatized state from the perspective of stakeholders. Importantly, the degree to which trade-offs may have been made under new accountability arrangements is also discussed. Finally, the article draws together some general lessons on accountability for future privatization activities and proposes a conceptual model for a pyramid of accountability.
This paper argues that evaluations of public-private partnerships thus far point to contradictory results regarding their effectiveness and value-for-money. Despite continuing political popularity, greater care is needed to strengthen future evaluations and conduct such assessments away from the policy cheerleaders.
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