Provincial Government proceeds with Public Private Partnerships (P3s) and
Alternative Service Delivery (ASD) models to provide infrastructure and
services, the public will need to understand this approach is not risk-free.
might that risk be? It is that the returns from P3s will reflect the worst of
what the public service and the private sector, combined, have to offer.
begin with, the suitability of the P3 service model should not be defined
either by NAPE or by the NL Employers Council, who are on opposite sides of the
|NAPE President Gerry Earle
concerned that government will diminish its size, which is already under threat.
It doesn’t fret about bloat or that the bureaucracy has been diminished by a bevy of overpaid consultants who rob them
of opportunity and advancement. NAPE should be the biggest booster of a stronger
Public Service Commission, but it isn’t.
NLEC is preoccupied with growing new private sector opportunities for its membership;
a group that, by now, should be wondering if they have anything to offer, having
mindlessly chosen to boost, some by their silence, the worst state-owned
enterprise idea imaginable, the Muskrat legacy project.
conducted for the NLEC, entitled WHY WAIT IN LINE? by Professor Tom Clift and
Dr. Tom Cooper, indicates the authors have thought about government readiness.
That is a hopeful sign, because it means government might get more reminding.
issue; even if it seems irreconcilable. This is, in part, because of the
absence of a reliable methodology for determining if P3s are worth the bother. Even
in the case of the simple “design-build model”, there are wide discrepancies as
to the appropriate premium for the “risk shouldered by the private partner…”,
as a Globe and Mail article noted.
highlighted by Ontario’s auditor-general”. That province has embraced P3s
to the tune of billions of dollars since the late 1990s. They include hospitals
and Toronto’s Highway 407.
those who are ideologically opposed to profit.
blogger, Hans Rollman writing for the Independent, took the gloves off last
week in an effort to discredit P3s. He
cited, as proof of their failure, a 31% increase in the cost of the Adult Basic
Education program, a decision by an Ontario Hospital Group to cancel
outsourcing medical equipment sterilization, and even a Report by the left
leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Indeed, like P3s and exclusively government programs, there are losers among private companies, too. But the push towards P3s, especially in Ontario and B.C,. who have more than two decades of experience with P3 and ASD models, suggest they have a value worth mining.
see that the system, as it currently operates, is not working. They don’t
accept either, that the public service we now know will be unrecognizable in just a few years. It it is not sustainable.
That is one reason the private sector might have a a partnership role, if the balance of risk is not placed entirely on the Government.
and I emphasize might, have a place in public policy execution, anyway.
But there is good
reason for the qualification.
for example, should be a poster child for the professional public service. The department
has operated for decades on the periphery of the P3 concept, as government’s infrastructure
builder, and as administrator of the Public Tender Act. It relates to a bevy of
professionals in many disciplines, writes tender specifications, performs contract
administration, engineering, and most importantly, inspection functions.
be a beacon giving guidance to government, boasting rigid systems for management,
quality control, project schedules, and financial management. It should be a
font of skill and advice on how best to manage P3s.
and not just due to the Humber Valley Paving fiasco.
Valley High and Roncalli cover-ups in which students were placed at risk, and
oversight proven faulty. The steel skeleton of the new Virginia Park School has
already cost $12 million, due to botched management in the department; a
finished school, or something close, should be gotten for that amount.
call the “gift that keeps on giving” – to private contractors. Even a new asphalt
surface, properly installed, will never last because the road bed was incorrectly
built, in the first place.
are not replaced and inspections are curtailed. Neither does the system promote
a culture of independent oversight when “writing up” the contractor brings fear
of reprisal, and when there are no restrictions on key people, including
inspectors, working for the department one day, and for the contractor the next.
will oversee P3s, their failure will be swift and their cost to the public
Transportation and Works?
unacceptable. Government will never be more than a place of mediocrity unless rigorous
steps are taken to make the public service a fortress of transparency, thrift, diligence,
which the private sector is let in, will give new urgency to the public service
to do better at what it is supposed to do best.
Their success is predicated on the private partner operating within clearly
defined agreements that set out quantifiable performance standards; a process that
also requires proper monitoring.
lest they are swallowed up by savvy, better motivated, better resourced, and
possibly better paid private partners.
mandatory. P3s, either in their original design and award, or operation, must
not be part of a political patronage system, as public works often are. In
other words, if the Government wants an unprepared and under resourced
bureaucracy to handle the public part of P3s, don’t even think about it. It
Cooper propose a governance structure and the “need to have an independent
entity within the government, akin to a function such as the Auditor General,
responsible for developing and implementing ASD and PPP models.
stronger than our “pussy cat” A-G. But, I get their point.