Public Values in Public–Private Partnerships

Published date01 January 2014
Date01 January 2014
Anne-Marie Reynaers is completing
her doctoral thesis on public values
in public–private partnerships in the
Department of Political Science and Public
Administration, VU University Amsterdam.
She holds a research master’s degree in
public administration and organizational
science from the University of Utrecht. Her
main f‌i elds of interest are public values,
public–private partnerships, good govern-
ance, DBFMO (design–build–f‌i nance–
maintain–operate) projects; and public
Public Values in Public–Private Partnerships 41
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 74, Iss. 1, pp. 41–50. © 2013 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12137.
Anne-Marie Reynaers
VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Although public–private partnerships (PPPs) are fre-
quently analyzed and lauded in terms of ef‌f‌i ciency, their
impact on public values is often neglected. As a result,
there is little empirical evidence supporting or rejecting
the claim that PPPs have a negative ef‌f ect on public
values.  is case study provides valuable insight into
the relationship between public values in PPPs and the
circumstances af‌f ecting the degree to which public values
are upheld. Research f‌i ndings demonstrate that whether
public values are at stake in PPPs cannot be answered
with a simple yes or no. Rather, public values can be
threatened, safeguarded, or even strengthened depending
on the project phase and the specif‌i c facet of the public
value under scrutiny. Insight into which circumstances
inf‌l uence the safeguarding of public values in DBFMO
(design–build–f‌i nance–maintain–operate) projects
unravels the strengths and weaknesses of PPPs in terms of
public values, providing public managers with a starting
point for optimization.
During the last two decades, the organiza-
tion of public service delivery has changed
substantially in many Western countries.
Movements such as reinventing government and New
Public Management have stimulated governments to
introduce private sector management techniques and
increase private sector involvement. As a result, many
public services are now provided by governance struc-
tures such as public–private partnerships (PPPs). In
line with the suggestion that the public sector should
no longer provide services but rather should supervise
private f‌i rms taking over this responsibility (Osborne
and Gaebler 1992), PPPs transfer the responsibility
for the design and realization of public service delivery
to the private sector through long-term contracting.
Although scholars supportive of reinvention argue
that recent reforms of‌f er governments considerable
benef‌i ts in terms of ef‌f ectiveness and ef‌f‌i ciency (Taylor
1999), critics fear that such reforms could have nega-
tive consequences in terms of public values such as
transparency and quality (Gawthorp 1998). Cohen
and Eimicke (1998, 2008), however, argue that recent
reforms take into account public values.  e question
of whether the organizational manifestations of the
reinvention movement provide for a suf‌f‌i cient level of
public values is the subject of increasing discussion,
but empirical evidence conf‌i rming or rejecting the
“public value–shading” hypothesis is scarce. Empirical
research has focused mainly on the ef‌f ect of out-
sourcing and privatization on public values (cf. Beck
Jørgensen and Bozeman 2002), but given its increas-
ing importance for public policy, empirical research
on the PPP–public value relationship remains surpris-
ingly scarce (Bovaird 2010). In order to increase
understanding of the relation between PPPs and
public values, this article considers an infrastructure
PPP in the northern Netherlands in which responsi-
bility for the design, construction, f‌i nance, operation,
and maintenance of a public road was transferred to a
private consortium.  e central research question of
this article is, what happens to public values in PPPs,
and what circumstances af‌f ect the degree to which they
are upheld?
e article is structured as follows: After initially
def‌i ning PPPs, the discussion turns to the concept
of public values in relation to recent public sec-
tor reforms.  e subsequent sections then outline
the research approach and methodology, report the
empirical results, conduct some discussion, and draw
conclusions from the f‌i ndings.
Public–Private Partnerships
e use of the term “public–private partnership”
to refer to a wide range of public–private arrange-
ments has led to much confusion in the public
administration literature about its exact def‌i nition
(Sullivan and Skelcher 2003; Weihe 2008). Hodge
(2010), for example, distinguishes f‌i ve partnership
variations: institutional cooperation for joint pro-
duction and risk sharing, public policy networks,
civil society and community development, urban
renewal and downtown economic development,
and long-term infrastructure contracts (LTICs).
is study addresses a specif‌i c type of LTIC, known
Public Values in Public–Private Partnerships

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