Understanding absences and ambiguities of Post-decision Project Evaluation in the UK’s PPPs: drawing from the sociology of ignorance

Xia Shu, Stewart Smyth, Jim Haslam

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)
    95 Downloads (Pure)


    Purpose: The authors explore the under-researched area of post-decision evaluation in PPPs (public–private partnerships), focusing upon how and whether Post-decision Project Evaluation (PdPE) is considered and provided for in United Kingdom (UK) public infrastructure projects.

    Design/methodology/approach: The authors’ research design sought insights from overviewing UK PPP planning and more focused exploration of PPP operational practice. The authors combine the extensive analysis of planning documents for operational UK PPP projects with interviews of different stakeholders in PPP projects in one city. Mobilising an open critical perspective, documents were analysed using ethnographic content analysis (ECA) and interviews were analysed using thematic analysis consistent therewith. The authors theorise the absence and ambiguities of PdPE drawing on the sociology of ignorance.

    Findings: The authors find a long-standing absence and lack of PdPE in PPP projects throughout planning and operational practice, reflecting a dynamic, multi-faceted ignorance. Concerning planning practice, the authors’ documentary analysis evidences a trend in PdPE from its absence in the early years (which may indicate some natural or genuine ignorance) to different levels or forms of weak inclusion later. Regarding this inclusion, the authors find strategic ignorance played a substantive role, involving “deliberate engineering” by both public sector and private partners. Interview findings indicate lack of clarity over PdPE and its underdevelopment in PPP practice, deficiencies again suggestive of natural and strategic ignorance.

    Originality/value: The authors draw from the sociology of ignorance vis-à-vis accounting’s absence and ambiguity in the context of PPP, contributing to an under-researched area.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages30
    JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
    Early online date16 Jun 2023
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jun 2023


    • Public–private partnerships (PPP)
    • Post-decision Project Evaluation (PdPE)
    • Ignorance
    • Absence
    • Ambiguity
    • UK

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Accounting
    • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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