Public-Private Partnership in Local Administration: An Exploratory Study of the City of Sandy Springs
Date of Award
Master of Public Administration (MPA)
This research paper is an attempt to understand and analyze the unique nature of the public-private partnership embraced by the City of Sandy Springs, in the Greater Atlanta area, North Georgia. The City of Sandy Springs’s innovative experiments with a different layer of public-private partnership has created immense curiosity among municipalities around the nation for a plausible new governing model that could revolutionize the way local governments function in the future. Hence, this exploratory study makes an effort to bring out the salient features of the governing model of the City of Sandy Springs which would encourage further empirical research in this regard.
The new City of Sandy Springs was incorporated on December 1, 2005 after decades of dissension with Fulton County over mediocre services. Since the inception, the City has contracted out the major portion of its services to a sole company, CH2M HILL OMI, one of the predominant public service delivery entities in the United States of America. The City asserts that it opted for this partnership as a means to achieve cost-effectiveness, better responsiveness, speedy delivery of services, less long-term liability, and less bureaucracy. Keeping the City’s articulation in mind, this study attempts to find out the extent to which the City has achieved these objectives.
The study uses an array of available literature to substantiate its validity. Further, it touches upon the recent history of the City’s incorporation and examines the present capacity of the City, elaborating its organizational, legislative, and administrative features. Furthermore, the City’s partnership with CH2M HILL OMI is discussed in detail. CH2M HILL OMI’s profile is examined, and the behavior of the contracted-out departments is observed with the help of available qualitative data. An attempt is made to understand the visible and invisible incentives for private companies like CH2M HILL OMI to perform almost completely on behalf of the City. Apparent positive and negative outcomes of the partnership are enumerated.
A survey/interview questionnaire is used to collect data from people directly and indirectly involved in the City’s public-private partnership to comprehend factors such as accountability, cost-effectiveness, better responsiveness, efficiency, and reduced bureaucracy. The data indicated that the partnership has indeed resulted in cost-effectiveness, cost utilization, and better responsiveness. The City’s measures to achieve accountability to the taxpayers are discussed. Similarly, participants’ desire for transparency and accountability measures from the company is identified. Moreover, some data shed light on several practices of the private company such as loose hiring standards, lack of accountability, and lack of coordination with the City’s departments that raise questions and concerns about the company’s respectability.
Finally, the study recognizes the City of Sandy Springs’ extreme dependency on the private company and suggests plausible courses for the City in order to mitigate its risks in an adverse situation. The City Council is recommended to adopt a stricter code of ethics and standards for key players who interact intensely with the private, company blurring sectorial boundaries. By the virtue of democracy, the City needs to demonstrate its power over the private company. The City must restrain the private company’s monopoly over services; facilitate healthy competition, and introduce choices. The City should utilize its interaction with the company to understand and learn the company’s “tricks of the trade” and attempt to adopt the claimed virtues of the private sector such as efficiency, lesser bureaucracy, and cost-effectiveness into the City’s administration and establish a less dependent city.