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Book Review Managing Public Sector Projects

A Strategic Framework for Success in an Era of Downsized Government

By David S Kassel

American Society for Public Administration: Series in Public Administration and Public Policy

Approx 250 pages
ISBN 978-1-4200-8873-1
First published 2010
CRC Press

Review by Jeb Riordan, PMP

The introduction begins with the story of the construction of a 50-bed children’s hospital in Basrah Iraq, year 2005, by Bechtel International for the US Agency for International Development.
US Congress authorized a budget of $50 million.
The construction was finally completed nearly a year over schedule at a cost of over $169 million

Similar examples are cited throughout the book, telling of overspends, delays and mis-management of public sector projects.


The author begins by defining public sector project management and offers some observation of the particular key skills that public sector project managers need.

He then introduces his five-element framework that if followed, he asserts, will drastically improve the probability for successful outcomes to public sector projects.

  1. Planning
  2. Team selection
  3. Clearly written contracts
  4. Effective monitoring and control
  5. Active involvement in the operation and maintenance phase

The author tells that this framework will ensure that contractors and agents employed to complete public sector projects are at least complying with industry and contractual requirements.

Each element of the framework is then discussed in detail.

The preliminary, intermediate and final stages of project planning and the importance of:
  • developing project specifications, schedules, budgets and risk strategies;
  • problem identification, stakeholder analysis,
  • establishing internal control systems

Team selection:
  • Qualifying competent project management team, agents and contractors
  • Organizational, ethical and accountability dynamics of successful teams

Characteristics of successful procurement systems
  • For consultants and contractors
  • Drafting contracts that are fair and advantageous to the public sector
  • Allocation of risk in public sector projects

How to monitor and control the execution phase of the public sector project
  • Effective strategies for monitoring and controlling schedule, cost and quality

Project closeout
  • The long term operational and maintenance issues with public sector project management

The framework concepts are further described in illustration and example with numerous "Tips for Success" inserted within the text.

The appendices at the back of the book, compile all the "Tips for Success" and also list websites of interest to public sector project managers.

The risks associated with public sector project management are high. Cost overruns, delays and other failures can have disastrous consequences, not only for the project team but also the public at large who at the end of the day fund public sector projects.

The author is in an authoritative position to comment on the management of public sector projects having spent over thirty years with government and government projects as journalist, analyst and consultant.
He has presented a means for improving trust in the people who manage public sector projects and by focussing on the underlying principles they in turn will be able to reverse the negative project outcomes that have become so common in the news in recent years.

Jeb Riordan, PMP (c) 2010