W Edwards Deming said that while effective managers would be satisfied to get things generally right, accountants preferred to get them precisely wrong. This sums up the perspective of Tony Poulter, of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, quite well (NCE last week).
His precise assertions about the Private Finance Initiative and Public Private Partnerships consistently outperforming the public sector, and being able to make private companies better able to apply their ideas and skills, are plain wrong. There are many examples of the public sector outperforming the private sector as a client.
Take the Highways Agency's most recent successes, Hong Kong MTRC, the Australian Department of Defence, some of our local government partnerships, and the jewel in the crown, the Sydney Olympics. And there are PFI/PPP disasters; those that were not still-born, that is.
It is all, as Stephen Glaister points out, a matter of leadership - not incentives as claimed by Poulter. You do not have to incentivise our excellent engineers to do a good job, you just have to remove the bureaucratic rubbish that gets in the way.
If we can get the right kind of leadership for underground rail projects then a world class job will be done - without PPP.
Professor John Carlisle, JCP, Broom Hall, Broomhall Road, Sheffield S10 2DR