Public Private Partnership in the Power Sector of Ghana
Jamilatu Issifu is writing her master's thesis in Public Administration on the subject Public-private partnership (PPP).
To which research group do you belong?
Globalisation and Development
Who is your supervisor?
What is the topic/ research question for your thesis?
Public Private Partnership in the Power Sector of Ghana: Has it Delivered as Expected?
How did you choose the topic for your thesis?
The Government of Ghana is currently facing considerable challenges in the provision of reliable electricity to citizens. After almost two decades of initiating power sector reforms to improve on the availability, reliability and quality of service, the sector is still saddled with erratic power supply. One key challenge of the power sector has been power generation deficit which the government is unable to finance solely. Independent Power Producers (IPPs) have therefore been invited to build and operate additional electricity generation plants to augment the production by the state power generator. In their operations, IPPs sign an agreement and cooperate with two government entities, the Ghana Grid Company and the Electricity Company of Ghana for transmission and distribution of their generated electricity. My interest in this research is to examine the type of partnership that exists between these government agencies and IPPs and to what extent their relationship affects the partnership’s effectiveness in providing improved services to citizens. Emphasis is given to the partnership traits, thus whether it is that of mere ‘exchange’ where there is the goal of individual gains, or conversely if the partnership is truly ‘collaborative’ where there is joint effort or teamwork with shared risks and benefits.
Is there anything extra special/ exciting about your case study?
Reviewing various literatures, I realised that studies on Public Private Partnerships in Ghana have mostly centred on water provision and sanitation with very little attention on electricity. The few studies on PPP in the power sector have also tend to focus on institutional and legal frameworks that are being implemented to create a conducive business environment for IPPs, with very little attention on how routine processes between these IPPs and the government agencies impact on the performance of their partnership. Indeed, there is a PPP policy (2011), an Energy Policy (2010) which places much emphasis on private finance in expanding power infrastructure, a PPP advisory unit at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, a Minister of State at the Presidency in charge of PPPs, and various regulatory bodies to ensure the implementation of such PPP projects. However, are those enough to ensure effective and successful partnerships? What happens after partnership agreements have been signed? How do partners relate and work on a daily basis? How effective do partners combine their complementary resources to meet increasing electricity demand. To quote Weihe (2008) “indeed, operational practice has been more or less black-boxed. So we do not know very much about how the public and private actors in PPPs co-operate in practice and how this affects performance…”. Moving beyond the macro-structure of a PPP policy and its institutional frameworks, the rudiments of routine partnership functioning such as resource availability, trust, and common goals, that if effectively managed create that special effect of ‘synergy’ which is the unique phenomenon of partnership that gives it the ‘collaborative advantage’ over single agents operations. Is this the case in the partnership between the IPPs and government agencies in Ghana? This research is distinct because it takes into consideration the various factors that influence the daily operations of these organisations and how they impact on the overall success of the partnership. This is what has been overlooked by other researches in the power sector. I believe every research should be able to address key and pertinent issues in society and add some new knowledge to what already exists and that is what my research seeks to do.
Have you done any fieldwork?
Yes. The field study took place in Accra between 9th June, 2014 and 15th August, 2014. Within this period, a total of nine institutions in the power sector comprising both public and private organisations were visited for interviews and observation. The interview entailed an in-depth enquiry of respondents’ views and personal reflections on the subject matter. Documents and reports on the Ghanaian power sector were also made available by some respondents during the interviews.
What do you think was most educational with/about the fieldwork?
Having a one-on-one discussion with experts and actors in the power sector gave me an informed perspective on the challenges and prospects of the sector. On the partnership, I learnt that aside the organisations that collaborate in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, activities of the monitoring and regulatory bodies influence the performance of the partners largely. Again, even though the problem of the sector has been named as generation deficit, a huge chunk of the challenge is the inefficiencies in the transmission and especially the distribution systems. Therefore, even if one system is efficient and the others are not, electricity delivery will still witness disruptions. This creates the need for a collaborative effort between partners to address this challenge. The information gathered on the field further informed me that as government seeks to create a business friendly environment for IPPs, it ought to also focus on strengthening the capacity of government agencies to complement the effort by these IPPs.
What do you consider the best part of writing your thesis?
I consider the analysis chapter the most challenging yet gratifying part of the research. After reviewing various literatures and collecting data, analysing the diverse information obtained requires a critical thinking process to unravel answers that seem to be concealed. It is particularly interesting reflecting on responses from the interviews, applying the theories and concepts, probing arguments by various scholars to ascertain if they apply in the study context. The PPP Policy of Ghana which has been dubbed “Private Partnership in Infrastructure and Services for Better Public Service Delivery” serves as a focal point of the research. Thus overall, one basic question that the analysis chapter answers is: Has the partnership in the power sector improved on electricity delivery as expected?