Telfer Professors Study Lessons of Public-Private Partnerships
Executive in Residence George Langill, Professor Greg Richards and graduate student Katherine Bock will produce a systematic review of studies of public-private partnerships as part of a consulting project with the federal Crown Corporation PPP Canada.
Public-private partnerships or “P3s” are attracting growing interest as a method of procuring and managing public infrastructure, Langill notes. In P3s, government, public service providers and private enterprise share the role traditionally played exclusively by the public sector. Many sectors of the economy including healthcare now have experience with the model. When he was CEO of the Royal Ottawa Hospital (ROH) Group, Langill oversaw the successful design of the ROH/ uOttawa Institute of Mental Health Research redevelopment project as the first healthcare P3 in Canada. At the time, the positive experiences of other countries, mainly the U.K., provided “supportive background” for the government and the hospital Board, he noted. A decade later, with government and philanthropic spending under continued restraint, there’s an opportunity to review the Canadian and international experience with P3 models in more detail.
The P3 model can provide an opportunity to deliver badly needed public infrastructure to communities on time, within budget and more efficiently and effectively than a traditional approach would have allowed, Langill contends. But decision-making has to be informed by a strong base of knowledge about best practices on issues such as project governance and management, financing and development risk, and the establishment of performance benchmarks, he cautions.
“Given the trend in favour of P3s, we need to pay more attention to what the research says about issues like ‘value for money’ and transfer-of-risk compared to traditional ways of procuring infrastructure to show in what ways the model might make operational or economic sense in a particular case. This change in emphasis is also needed to identify where further research should be focused.
“Our work with PPP Canada provides a chance for us as academics to engage with the world of P3s right here in Ottawa and help contribute a more systematic approach to the method. Taking an evidence-based approach concerns not only the successful acquisition of the capital, but also the efficacy of the project going forward.”