In my latest column, I write that the controversy over the Virginia Information Technology Authority’s handling of its ten year, $2.3 billion IT contract with Northrup Grumman should not curb Virginia’s desire to engage in public-private partnerships (PPPs). Commonwealth policymakers should recognize that challenges occur and focus on fixing problems, not politicizing them. Here’s an excerpt:
…Virginia’s had a long history with successful PPPs and is widely recognized as a state leader. State officials recognize by now that PPPs come in all shapes and sizes. An IT modernization project is a lot different than a toll road partnership, which is in turn a lot different from a partnership to modernize a state psychiatric hospital. Virginia’s undertaken these and many other types of PPPs over the last two decades.
Commonwealth policymakers should have a sophisticated enough understanding by now of the nuances and varieties of PPPs, recognizing that there is no cookie-cutter template. Each PPP is a unique vehicle structured to achieve a set of specific goals, and each type of contract has to be carefully constructed and monitored to ensure that both the state and their private sector partners deliver on their commitments. And if you run into a situation where one party or the other fails to deliver, then you remember that it’s a partnership, where the parties work to resolve implementation issues.
Read on for a look at how other states have handled similar controversies. The key for policymakers is to tune out the politics and stay focused on understanding and resolving the implementation challenges.