To gain a better understanding of how innovation in public-private partnerships (PPPs) builds on genuine learning, we reached out to PPP infrastructure experts around the world, posing the same question to each. Their honest answers redefine what works — and provide new insights into the PPP process. This is the question we posed: How can mistakes be absorbed into the learning process, and when can failure function as a step toward a PPP’s long-term success?
Having worked in the infrastructure sector for nearly 20 years, I’ve had time to reflect on what success and failure look like in infrastructure PPPs. Mistakes have been, do, and will continue to be made when using PPPs. It is not perfect — nor is its application — but what in life is?
There are so many horror stories around non-PPP construction cost overruns, delays in completion, poorly specified contracts, weak tender management, corruption, failure to run transparent competitive processes, lack of project readiness, significant post-contract variations, and sporadic asset maintenance and management. PPPs eliminate many of the above structural weaknesses, which rightfully earns it its place as a challenging but effective procurement approach.
The chief criticisms of PPP — that it takes longer to procure and is less flexible than conventional procurement — have some validity. Getting price certainty does take time and requires clear contractual risk allocation through the life of the contract.