Public-private partnerships have 'transformed services'

16 October 2002
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17 October 2002 | Liam O'Brien

In the wake of the government's defeat at the Labour Party conference over its support for public-private partnerships (PPPs), CIPS has produced a position paper that finds much to recommend in the controversial policy.

The document, designed to provide best advice to purchasing practitioners, says that "in almost every case… the end result has been a significant improvement on the status quo".

CIPS's five-page report, the result of canvassing the views of 200 practitioners, says: "Public-private partnership has enabled markets to be moved and investment to be made. It has transformed many public services."

Melinda Johnson, head of policy and representation at CIPS, said: "PPP can deliver value for money if it is thought through, competent people are involved and good practice adhered to.

"It can have potential benefits because it enables the private sector to bring in funding and expertise to make things happen that might not otherwise.

"But purchasing professionals must explore all the options to make sure this is the one that will work best."

CIPS sees PPP as giving practitioners a chance to raise their profile. It recommends they are familiar with the mechanisms underpinning PPP.

But the paper acknowledges that PPP is a complex process with potential pitfalls. Among those identified are disproportionate attention being given to finance over the service provided and the transfer of assets from public to private balance sheets.

Robert Elsey, a member of CIPS's contracts management group and a contract management consultant, said the key potential problem with PPP stemmed from contracts.

"What has caused problems with some of the high-profile PPPs is their lack of adequate terms and conditions to cover the additional risks faced in PPP."

During the government's defeat on PPP at the Labour Party conference, Paul Boateng, chief secretary to the Treasury, was booed and slow hand-clapped while defending its record.

• Purchasers should become more involved in supply chain management and, if possible, lead it, according to a new CIPS paper on supply chains. It and the PPP report are available at


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