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PFI report proves the doubters wrong


AT LONG last we have a report from the National Audit Office that comprehensively scrutinises the Private Finance Initiative.

The report, which picks through 37 highprofile projects, vindicates what contractors have claimed all along - that budget and delivery dates are being met.

The evidence for this is compelling. Seventy per cent of the projects registered no price rise after contract award. Of those that did, it was entirely down to client specification changes in all but one example.

Compare this with a previous study showing that nearly three-quarters of conventionally procured central government projects came in over budget. The statistics for time overruns are similarly in favour of PFI.

Such findings counter the critics, who have been fixated by the ideology of the publicprivate debate, and a series of spurious oneoff case studies based on early PFI projects.

Even these headline achievements underestimate how PFI is changing attitudes.

According to the NAO, risk is being successfully transferred to contractors in a cost-effective way. In fact, far from milking PFI, contractors are typically achieving margins of just 2.5 per cent on construction.

Buildings are being delivered to a higher standard because there is a clear focus on whole-life costs and because long-term relationships forged within consortia encourage team working. There is also evidence that prices are falling with each new project and the feedback from public sector project managers and users is very favourable.

Over the years much has been said about creating an efficient construction industry.

Task forces, best practice groups and bodies made up of the great and good have come and gone with varying degrees of success.

But if it is deeds rather than words you want, PFI can truly claim the credit for providing the incentives for firms to achieve efficient construction and design.