Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Why SIB's won't work

I was reading Kyle McKay's article on Goldman Sachs new SIB programme and while I agree with the majority of his points, I think that the fundamental point is missed here...

Myth 3 for McKay is that "The government pays only for success" - McKay is concerned that it will be difficult to decide whether a programme is a success due to the contractual difficulties in defining success and that the government will therefore end up paying for projects that have not "succeeded".

This misses the point that the project developers will be incentivised to produce projects that are at least perceived to have "succeeded". This in itself would not appear to be a problem until you consider that a project that has succeeded in its fundamental aims, versus one that succeeds as per a written contract are two very different things.

As soon as a project is designed specifically with the aim of improving a measurable outcome, rather than with the fundamental outcome in mind, it runs the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Focus shifts away from the aims of the project and onto improving the KPIs. The key word there is "Indicator". A positive shift in a KPI does not reveal a project that is working, in the same way that a negative (or zero) shift would tarnish a project as failing.

SIBs could result in the government paying for programmes that are not effective. That's a true statement. It could also result in far more projects being run that are not effective at all. That is the issue here.

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