The sustainability of public-private partnership in Ireland

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Sheppard, Gail
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University College Cork
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Despite a lack of transparency and a failure to report value for money in the public domain, PPP has continued as a public procurement policy in Ireland. Its use commenced during the so-called Celtic Tiger years when other forms of public procurement may have been possible. There has been limited publication of the reasons for the decision to procure through PPP, thereby making public scrutiny and assessment of the sustainability of this policy difficult. Major reforms to the policy were introduced in 2012, and now in 2018 this research reviews these policy reforms to assess the sustainability of this policy. Adopting a critical realist position and, by attempting to understand the forces at work in the introduction and operation of PPP in Ireland, whether observable of themselves or by their effects, this study evaluates the policy and makes recommendations to improve on the status quo. If the observable performance can be objectively measured against an accepted framework, the forces at work can be made explicit, the performance of PPP can be evaluated and improvements, if any, can be recommended. Influences on the adoption of PPP in Ireland are examined using Dolowitz and Marsh (1996 and 2000). The performance of PPP is evaluated using a framework based on the Jooste, Levitt and Scott (2009) framework which seeks to examine the extent to which institutional environments have been adapted to enable a sustainable PPP policy and an environment where legitimacy, trust and capacity in the policy exist. A pilot study encompassing interviews and a document analysis was completed in 2013, and informed an extended study was carried out in 2016. Data is analysed using thematic analysis and Nvivo software is used to organise the data for analysis purposes. The findings of this research generate unique insights into the nature of policy transfer, particularly the impediments to the natural evolution of a policy during a period of uncertainty. Ireland has been purposefully selective in embracing only some of the measures which would increase the legitimacy of the policy. Ireland’s PPP policy has evolved and it now relies on learning from its own experience and less from other countries. The research shows that there are weaknesses in the policy, in particular, the role of the National Development Finance Agency, the transparency of the policy, the role of stakeholders and political commitment to the policy. Further to this, as the policy has evolved in Ireland, there has been a de-politicisation of PPP. A greater politicisation of PPP in Ireland would bring with it an obligation for more transparency, regulation, accountability and post-project reviews. Weak political support for PPP exemplifies a culture of satisficing where PPP in Ireland appears to be a useful procurement method, but only meets the minimum requirements of legitimacy, trust and capacity. The research argues that there needs to be clarity around risk transfer as well as a strong legal and regulatory framework in Ireland to ensure the long-term sustainability of PPP.
Public-private partnership , Sustainability , Public policy , Value for money
Sheppard, G. 2019. The sustainability of public-private partnership in Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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