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A few years ago, I participated in a meeting to discuss best practices in Public-Private Partnership (PPP) regulation. There was no shortage of examples. In fact, PPP practitioners were eager to share their experiences from countries around the world, but we did not have a systematic way to make all that information accessible to policy makers. Moreover, at the time, I kept thinking that there were many more good examples beyond those we were sharing at the meeting.
The lack of systematic data on the quality of PPP regulation was a serious issue. What we needed was a comprehensive, systematic way to go beyond individual examples. How could we collect available information, organize it in a rigorous and systematic way, and make it all accessible to policy makers?
Photo: Jakob Montrasio | Flickr Creative Commons
Getting to commercial close on a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) transaction is a major milestone. But the deal is far from done. Getting from commercial close to financial close involves satisfying a long list of PPP contract Conditions Precedent, the terms, and conditions of lenders, among other requirements. The process is tricky and involves a lot of heavy lifting, particularly in emerging markets where the market for PPPs and supporting institutional structures may not yet be robust. None of this is news.
Yet CPCS has experienced this firsthand as transaction advisors advising governments on PPP deals in developing economies.
The responsibilities have radically changed from that of an administrative service function to a proactive and strategic one. Unfortunately, in most jurisdictions the procurement function is still not considered a specific profession and consequently, building procurement professional expertise to meet development challenges remains an unfinished agenda.
Vietnam spends an estimated US$25 billion in goods and services each year. Recognizing that an efficient public procurement system is essential to delivering quality public services in a timely manner, the Government has set a mandate to professionalize the public procurement function.
Photo Credit: Xing Yihang | CRIENGLISH.com
Kenya recently launched its high-capacity, high-speed standard gauge railway (SGR) for passenger and freight transportation, which currently runs from the coastal city of Mombasa to the capital city, Nairobi. The SGR replaces the meter gauge railway passenger line that was constructed during the British colonial period that was commonly referred to as the lunatic express.
The Kenyan SGR is part of a proposed wider regional network for the development of railway connecting Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. Each of these countries is expected to develop the part of the railway line falling within its borders. Kenya is ahead of the pack, being the first country in the region to operationalize the SGR.
from the British colonialists in 1963. From a public-private partnership (PPP) perspective, the SGR is a unique project for various reasons:
Public procurement of services, works and supplies is estimated to account for 15-20% of GDP in developing countries, and up to 50% or more of total government expenditure. Efficient and effective procurement is vital to core government functions, including public service delivery and provision of infrastructure. Weaknesses in procurement systems can lead to large-scale waste of public funds, reduced quality of services, corruption, and loss of trust in government.
As I have blogged earlier, the World Bank is supporting Procurement Observatories in India. Procurement Observatories are civil society organizations, whose goal is to collect, analyze and present public procurement policies and data to the public in a more understandable way. These initiatives, inspired by similar approaches in Nigeria, allow for greater transparency of procurement practices.
While the aim of these observatories is to become self-sustaining and independent from World Bank support, recent progress from three such observatories in India show that .
India is the fastest-growing major economy in the world with significant Government investments in infrastructure. According to estimates by WTO and OECD, as quoted in a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, India: Probity in Public Procurement, the estimated public procurement in India is between 20 and 30 percent of GDP.
This translates to Indian government agencies issuing contracts worth an estimated US$ 419 billion to US$ 628 billion each year for various aspects of infrastructure projects. Ideally, in contractual agreements no disputes would arise and both sides would benefit from the outcome. However, unexpected events occur and many contracts end in dispute. Contractual legal disputes devoid project benefits to the public as time and resources are spent in expensive arbitration and litigation. As a result, India’s development goals are impacted.
Many Bank-financed projects, especially those implementing large and complex contracts continually face high risk of implementation delays, and procurement is the most frequently used scapegoat.
What has gone wrong in those cases?
At the onset, borrowers are requested to prepare a detailed procurement plan for the first 18 months of project implementation, which is carefully reviewed and approved by the Bank before loan negotiations and the projects are then declared "good to go."
But the reality is almost never that rosy.
One challenge that many countries face along the way is that their procurement procedures are misaligned with what industry is able to provide, and with how industry is able to provide it. Technology changes quickly, and procurement guidelines originally designed to meet the needs of 20th century schooling (with a focus on school construction, for example, and the procurement of textbooks) may be inadequate when trying to operate in today's fast-changing technology environments. Indeed, in education as in other sectors, technological innovations typically far outpace the ability of policymakers to keep up.
Faced with considering the use of new, 'innovative' tools and approaches that hadn't been tried before at any large scale within its country's schools, education policymakers may reflexively turn to precedent and 'old' practices to guide their decisions, especially when it comes to procurement. This is usually seen within government ministries as a prudent course of action, given that such an approach is consistent with the status quo, and that related safeguards are (hopefully) in place. As a result, however, they may end up driving forward into the future primarily by looking in the rear view mirror.
When considering the scope for introducing various types of technology-enabled 'innovations' (however one might like to define that term) into their education systems, many governments face some fundamental challenges:
- They don't know exactly what they want.
- They don't have the in-house experience or expertise to determine if what they want is practical, or even feasible, nor do they know what everything should cost.
In such circumstances:
- What is a ministry of education to do?
- How can it explore innovative approaches to the procurement of 'innovative' large scale educational technology programs in ways that are practical, appropriate, cost-effective, likely to yield good results, informed by research and international 'good practice', and transparent?