Resourcing ‘critical’ to PFI handback

Public sector officials have underlined the importance of properly resourcing for the expiry and handback of PFI contracts, warning that partners on both sides should not consider the process to be part of their ‘business as usual’ operations.

During advisory firm WSP’s Managing Handback Risk conference in Birmingham last week, over 100 public and private sector attendees heard how the heads of a number of major UK infrastructure agencies, including the Scottish Futures Trust and Community Health Partnerships, are approaching handback.

Matthew Vickerstaff, head of the government’s project finance profession and deputy chief executive of the Infrastructure & Projects Authority (IPA), and Scottish Futures Trust chief executive, Peter Reekie, underlined that the role of the IPA and SFT was to support and help with guidance, but that public and private sector organisations have to ‘own’ the handback of their project/s.

The public sector was urged to view the expiry process as a ‘project that needs to be resourced’ rather than attempt to manage this complex transition as part of their ‘business as usual’ activities, while the private sector was challenged on their reluctance to be open with their data and project information.

Pete Lambert, head of handback at WSP, said: “Our intention was to bring both sides around to the idea that preparing for a fight will not provide the best outcome for the public services that the users of these PFI facilities provide. Even though there were some vocal challenges to current handback behaviours, we were encouraged that there was such a willingness to talk openly about the issues and try to find solutions.”