PWD in the Spotlight

Published by Ministry of Planning, Lands, Agriculture, Housing and  Infrastructure, 4th November 2016

The “Infrastructure” Ministry has undertaken a review of the Public Works Department (PWD) in an attempt to improve efficiencies in its provision of design, construction and maintenance services to public buildings and facilities. This Strategic Assessment paves the way for Business Case development to drive future change.

Under the auspices of the Ministry of PLAHI, the department has sought to investigate options to improve its ability to be the service-provider of choice to Government agencies.

Primarily, through the provision of high-quality, cost-effective services with a focus on customer satisfaction, while utilizing information/communications technology solutions to enhance client- centered services in support of budgetary controls.

The department’s ability to achieve this vision was assessed, while maintaining Government priorities such as improved efficiencies, greater productivity, and an overall reduction in spending.

To properly evaluate this, the review has resulted in the publication on Monday, 31 October, 2016, of a Strategic Assessment, which analyses a wide range of options for change, to deliver on Project Future’s aims of achieving better outcomes while encouraging public- service innovation.

Initially, it was proposed that a review of the Recreational Parks & Cemeteries Section (formerly RPCU) would be subject to separate review. However, the structure of the department verifies a seamless integration of the unit in the PWD’s operational structure. This was achieved through significant, on-going in-house efforts undertaken after a merger in February 2013.

The current PWD Section shares common support systems, and a unified management structure.

The Strategic Assessment examined the entire PWD, taking care to identify any unique challenges or opportunities facing each section within the department. To do this, individual cases for change and possible options were examined; as well as financial, economic and social implications of all the proposed options – thereby ensuring that they meet high-level overarching objectives, such as:

    1. Increasing efficiency and productivity and reduce the cost to government of PWD activities.
    2. Increasing customer satisfaction with the services provided by PWD.
    3. Ensuring effective procurement, contracting and contract management of any supplies, services or works carried out by the private sector.
    4. Maintaining, and if possible enhancing, national resilience and emergency management capability.
    5. Enhancing opportunities for technical and vocational training, and promoting Caymanian employment.

In addition, the Assessment identified two objectives that were not initially included, but which demonstrated real potential for improvement across government. They are:

  1. Identifying opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness of whole-Government operations, through PWD taking on activities for other government entities.
  2. Designing and implementing a more efficient and effective process for the planning, design and delivery of public capital works.

Two options for these last two changes (identified in the Strategic Assessment) will go forward for more detailed testing through the development of an Outline Business Case, which will identify a preferred option for implementation.

The first option involves staying on-course with current systems and workflow, which may result in incremental improvements in service over time. Though this approach may not initially require significant additional funding, or changes in operational structure, it would likely result in PWD losing ground over the long-term.

This is due to the fact that, in a rapidly-evolving construction sector, the relevance of an organisation such as PWD would fade unless it is able to efficiently serve the needs of its clients and stakeholders.

The second option requires moderate upfront investment in human resources and technology, coupled with a re-mapping of business processes and restructuring the organization. This will allow it to align with industry best-practices, and is better suited to serve its clientele.

Part of this restructuring would include strategically identifying opportunities (where a sustainable benefit exists) for greater involvement of the private sector. The initial analysis in the Assessment indicates that this option has the potential to create an unprecedented competitive advantage for PWD.

Hon. Kurt Tibbetts, Minister Planning Lands, Agriculture, Housing & Infrastructure (PLAHI), welcomed the Strategic Assessment, saying: “The Public Works Department has made significant strides over recent years. This review creates an opportunity to capitalize on initial improvements and move the organization to playing an even greater role in the built environment.”

He added, “I am delighted that the Ministry has been able to identify realistic options for improving the efficiency of service, while retaining jobs for citizens and creating opportunities for young people seeking to gain careers in the construction sector.”

The Strategic Assessment has been signed off by Cabinet, and the short-listed options for change will now be tested in more detail through the creation of an Outline Business Case which will establish the preferred option for implementation. The Outline Business Case is due to be completed by the end of the year

The Ministry’s Chief Officer, Alan Jones, acknowledged the hard work of the staff who had worked on the Strategic Assessment. “The team at my Ministry continues to support this, and other initiatives being undertaken within the Department, that seek to do more with limited budgets; and to align the quality of service provision with best-practices globally. To do this, many creative solutions have to be identified and tailor-made to suit our needs locally”, Mr. Jones explained.