Government-private sector joint projects can benefit all parties involved, not to mention us, civilians. Still, there are important issues to consider. Here are three of them.
It is no secret that governments and private companies have a substantial amount of confidential information. From the government side, one can look at issues related to defense systems and military intelligence, political strategies, economic policy, and social reform, not to mention vital citizen information on healthcare and public welfare. As for private institutions, they not only have trade secrets to safeguard but also research and development plans, existing customer information, and employee data.
As such, when a national government and an enterprise in the private sector embark on a joint program, be it a civil engineering project, the development of new technologies, or the mass production and distribution of a covid-19 global pandemic vaccine, few things are more important than information security. In cases like these, breaches must be prevented at all costs. Otherwise, it is not an understatement to say the entire nation could be at risk.
Luckily, we live in an age where, in part due to an escalation in cybercrimes, cybersecurity has developed at levels never before seen. Today, high-tech enterprises provide government contractors with a long list of services at affordable prices, from Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification guidance or CMMC to endpoint security systems, compliance, and managed detection and response services that include log management, behavioral monitoring, vulnerability identification, and intrusion detection.
Building an international airport, a subway line, a highway, or a multifunctional, adequately-equipped hospital or medical facility is a costly proposition. Aside from the large number of employees required for such an endeavor, there is also the need for construction materials and technology in infrastructure, all of which need to be accounted for, for extended periods, from a few months to several years.
Because of this, winning a government contract is one of the best and most lucrative realizations any company can achieve. For instance, if an enterprise specializing in commercial airliners or aerospace and defense technology like Boeing, Airbus, Northrop Grumman, or Bombardier were to finalize a government agreement with the US military for the provision of high-tech fighter jets and aircraft carriers, it could represent a sales revenue level in the billions, even more.
The question, therefore, lies in knowing how to establish a fair competition environment where all suitors can present their tender offers in a just, open-book manner and decisions are made based on quality and duration of service, price, and level of expertise, not on alliances, friendships, future promises, and under the table dealings of dirty money.
Without corruption, both government agencies and independent businesses can thrive, leading to better solutions that benefit society as a whole.
Who Gets What
Most people agree that German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe first coined the phrase “the devil is in the details.” At the time, he was dealing with a wide variety of important projects that had to be carefully planned and executed.
Whether this is a true story or pure conjecture is up for debate. Still, what isn’t questionable is that it is true. Let us imagine, for example, that a local government is working with one or several private companies to build a road. Once the project is finished, both parties will get their investment returned through toll fees for the usage of said road and citizen taxes. Sounds pretty simple, right?
Of course, it does. But now let us also imagine that this road needs to be repaired every few years or there has been an unexpected natural disaster that caused extreme damage. In situations like these, who gets to cover the impending costs? Is it the government since it is a public infrastructure project? Or should it be the business? How about we citizens? Should we have to pay more in taxes?
As you can see, things can get very complicated very quickly. Like these, there are plenty of other examples of problems that can arise, especially when it comes to money.
Naturally, no contract can cover absolutely everything, and regardless of how intelligent or prepared you are, there are certain things you can’t control. Nevertheless, the more detailed and specific government-private sector contracts are, the less room for interpretation will lead to fewer future headaches.
As we can see, three key issues in collaboration projects between governments and the public sector are information security, putting in place the right mechanisms to prevent corruption, and having contracts with detailed procedural and financial stipulations. By dealing with them effectively, all ventures will have a much greater chance of success.