Public Values

Forensic accountant on BC P3s: higher costs, bias and secrecy

Observers question government's continued commitment to P3 procurement.

CUPE BC president Barry O Neill and forensic accountant Ron Parks take questions on the reportVANCOUVER, January 29, 2009 — In a report released today, BC's most respected forensic accountant, Ron Parks, along with his colleague Rosanne Terhart, find that public private partnerships (P3s) are costly for taxpayers.

They also find a consistent pro-privatization bias in the way that the BC government (through Partnerships BC) compares costs when assessing major projects. On top of this, the BC government is routinely denying access to critical information, which limits the public's ability to know that its interests are protected on P3 projects.

Parks and Terhart evaluated four P3 projects: the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre, the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement, the Academic Ambulatory Care Centre (Diamond Centre) and the Canada Line. Based on this review, they find that developing the projects as P3s is more expensive than if they were done publicly.

In the case of the Diamond Centre — they report that the actual nominal cost of a P3 was more than double that of a publicly procured project.

Barry O'Neill, president of the BC division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says that this report is clear evidence that the BC Liberals have stacked the deck in favour of privatizing the services people count on. "It's a taxpayer rip-off, plain and simple. The hundreds of millions of extra dollars we pay in what amounts to 'privatization premiums' should be used to improve roads, transit, schools and health care," says O'Neill.

O'Neill says that P3 problems around the world, including the current problems faced by the Macquarie Group to secure financing for the Port Mann Bridge, underscores the fact that privatization is plagued by no shortage of instability and risk to taxpayers. "Add to this the report's finding that private projects actually cost more and I ask why we would keep going down this road."

O'Neill says that this should give pause for major projects, like sewage treatment in Greater Victoria, where the Campbell government is advocating a P3.

Parks' report was commissioned by CUPE BC. Ron Parks and Rosanne Terhart are with the firm Blair Mackay Mynett Valuations Inc.

The full report and a backgrounder can be found at www.keepitpublic.ca

Privatization vs. Public Values Frame
  Private sector takes the risk off public hands / Public pays for private failure
  Private sector can do it for less / P3s quantifiably end up costing taxpayers more

Links and sources
  Ron Parks finds P3 projects have higher costs, bias and secrecy, by CUPE BC, January 29 2009
  Full report: Evaluation of Public-Private Partnerships , by Ron Parks and Rosanne Terhart, of Blair Mackay Mynett Valuations Inc., January 5 2009

Posted: February 04, 2009

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