Public Private Partnerships at the local level: a catalyst for development?

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The government has been called upon to strongly support Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) at the local level so that local authorities and their staff can become more focused on their core mandate of providing essential services to the public as the private sector complements these efforts by helping to reduce the financial and technical resource gap needed for socio-economic development.

Speaking at the breakfast debate organised by Policy Forum on 27th May 2016 in collaboration with the Association of Local Authorities of Tanzania (ALAT), Prof. Honest Prosper Ngowi, Lecturer at Mzumbe University defined PPP as an arrangement between public and private sector entities whereby the private entities renovate, construct, operate, maintain, manage a facility in whole or in part.

“It is done so in a manner that ensures the best interests of the public and private sector is taken care of as well as risks and returns considered,” he said, as he presented findings of a study on selected PPP issues in local government authorities in Tanzania. The study covered 5 subnational government authorities: Bagamoyo Town, Dodoma Municipality, Morogoro Municipality, Mtwara Mikindani Municipality and Tandahimba District Council.

Moreover, Prof. Ngowi pointed out that there are several LGAs which implemented various types of PPP projects even before the PPP Policy (in 2009). Examples of PPPs in LGAs from 2005 include: Arusha Municipal Council (AMC), Morogoro Municipal Council (MMC), Bariadi District Council, Kigoma District Council, Njombe, Kisarawe DC and Dodoma Municipality.

Prof. Ngowi mentioned some of the challenges faced by local authorities in undertaking PPP projects as being; political interference by central government representatives, dynamics of vested business and political interests, corruption by some local authority staff (e.g. in tendering process, dishonesty/unfaithful businessmen, information asymmetry, outright lack of information/data on key issues, bureaucratic delays, distrust, lack of transparency and inadequate enabling environment).

Mr. Abraham Byamungu from the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) said UNCDF has a unique financial mandate within the UN system, to support public and private sector to provide seed capital, technical expertise and credit enhancements and to provide investment at the local level through performance based grants to local government.

He stated the major challenge they face as being; lack of required in-house and specialized expertise (in technical, financial, legal, environmental and organizational issues) and lack of financial capacity to meet early stage project development costs).

The discussant at the debate, Mr. Shomari from the PPP unit of the President's Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG) said that although there have been positive aspects when it came to raising revenue, there have been a number of alarms raised such as the irregular procurement of outsourcing services. He insisted, however, that the ministry continues to work on the guidelines in order to improve the process. These guidelines will hopefully make it easier to smoothly facilitate PPP in a manner that is transparent and competitive resulting in a level-playing field for businesses.

He concluded by calling for a better module to land management with private public partnerships and increased research on local government to come up with appropriate projects.