Mind the gap: accountability and value for money in public private partnerships
The increasing popularity of public private partnerships (PPP) raises important challenges in terms of protecting the public interest and maintaining accountability for the expenditure of public funds. This paper explores the principal mechanisms for addressing accountability concerns in the context of PPP. It focuses on the case of the Republic of Ireland. While recognising that a balance must be struck between protecting the public interest and creating conditions for competitive procurement it is argued that the balance is tipped in favour of the latter. The scope for improving accountability through parliamentary oversight is narrowed by the paucity of detailed analysis by the Comptroller and Auditor General and limits to the power of parliamentary committees to fully examine PPP. The paper also finds shortcomings in the conduct of value for money assessments. These problems undermine the objectivity of such assessments and reduce their worth as mechanisms for enhanced public accountability.
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