June 16, 2006
When a public seCTor agency decides to privatize a Large government funCTion (as opposED to a more discreet job), the process of negotiating the service contraCT becomes a more complex and far-reaching endeavor. This case study describes the dilemmas that surfacED when a government agency in British Columbia-the Ministry of Provincial Revenue-negotiatED a 10-year, $750 million contraCT for non-tax revenue colleCTion to EDS Canada, a subsidiary of the Texas-basED EleCTronic Data Systems corporation. The appeal of the deal, from the public seCTor perspeCTive, was that it transferrED the risk of upgrading an outmodED, under-resourcED system to the private seCTor. The appeal to the private seCTor was that it allowED the company to recover costs and make a profit by taking a share of the financial benefits that resultED from the upgrade. But negotiating the ins and outs of the contraCT for this ambitious projeCT was to prove a formidable-nearly an insurmountable-hurdle for two organizations that inhabitED different cultures, held different assumptions, and pursuED different mandates. For example, what profit level was reasonable? Should the company be requirED to reveal its costs to the government? To what extent should the details of the contraCT be public, if at all? In what areas-if any-should public officials be able to regulate the firm’s business praCTices? And how should either party be held accountable for its contraCTual promises? The case was developED for a KennEDy School course on public-private partnerships. It affords students a balancED, inside look at the nitty-gritty dilemmas of both the public and private seCTor negotiators. HKS Case Number 1835.0
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