Geoffrey Hamilton, Chief of the PPP Programme at UNECE, structured his presentation into three parts: initial finding of the Team of Specialists on PPPs related to the Strategic Heritage Plan, the feedback received from member States to these findings, and the proposal for a follow up study.
By initial findings Geoffrey Hamilton referred to the Special Session which was held in Geneva on 6 December 2012 that included several PPP case studies similar to the Palais des Nations. Overall the Team of Specialists argued that those case studies demonstrate that the PPP option is a valid one for UNOG to consider having as key advantages on time and to budget delivery.
He state that at that meeting, among the issues raised were the importance of having a successful procurement in PPP, which typically requires negotiations with preferred bidders and the idea is to introduce competition amongst bidders and get the best quality outcome. He however argued that this would be rather difficult to achieve as UNOG is prevented to engage in competitive bidding by the rules governing procurement as agreed by member States.
Considering the status of the building and its site, there are questions regarding ownership and legal concerns as any underlying PPP concession agreement could not be subject to specific national jurisdiction and more particularly international arbitration. Sovereign immunity was also mentioned. As the Palais could claim sovereign immunity, this could turn away any international PPP concessionaires.
He opined that all in all, the results of the initial findings were rather positive subject once the above-mentioned issues are tackled.
UNECE received interesting feedback from governments: for many, PPP was seen as something that was a type of humanitarian gift given to the governments by the private sector. Geoffrey Hamilton stressed upon putting this myth to rest by specifying that private sector is motivated by profits, which is a very important factor to keep into account. He also stated that the feedback suggested the need to have a more objective analysis of advantages and disadvantages of PPPs, whereby the issues of length of preparation and complexity are tackled.
This consists of firstly identifying the scope and scale of the project and preparing a PPP service output specification. The colleagues from the UNOG would be tasked with managing the contracts and at some stage to set up a team to deal with the legal, financial and technical issues related to the PPP.
Overall the Team of Specialists supports the notion of PPPs but they also want to provide UNOG with an honest assessment, and it proposes to undertake a baseline study that looks in detail at the risks associated with different PPP models, the failures in PPPs and their causes alongside recommendations on the way forward. This study will be prepared in time for UNOG’s report to the General Assembly in April/May 2013.