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Unsolicited proposals in infrastructure: a balancing act between incentives vs. competition

Philippe Neves's picture

Photo: kupicoo/ iStock

A key challenge when developing a policy to manage unsolicited proposals (USPs) in infrastructure projects is to strike a balance between receiving submissions and creating competitive tension. In a previous blog, we warned that USPs should be used with caution as an exception to the public procurement method, and argued that a good policy to manage USPs can help ensure transparency and predictability, and protect the public interest.
Surely a government that decides to consider USPs and develops a policy to manage them will look forward to receiving compliant proposals. At the same time, the government should ensure the project represents a fair market price and delivers value for money. Yet what is the incentive for the private sector to submit an unsolicited bid if the government takes it and competitively procures it? How can a government make USPs appealing to the private sector while attracting enough competing bidders?

Managing unsolicited proposals in infrastructure: 5 key questions for governments

Philippe Neves's picture

Photo Credit: Tim Wang via Flickr Creative Commons

According to the World Bank Group’s Private Participation in Infrastructure (PPI) Database, an estimated 10-30% of global infrastructure projects with private-sector participation in low- and middle-income countries are unsolicited, meaning the proposal was submitted by a private sector entity without an explicit request from a government to do so. The considerable use of this alternative procurement method, where the private sector rather than the government takes the leading role in initiating and developing a project, raises important concerns for public infrastructure practitioners at both technical and political levels due to the nature of unsolicited proposals (USPs). USPs offer potential opportunities for governments, but experience shows they can introduce several challenges, such as diverting public resources away from the strategic plans of the government, failing to attract competition, and ultimately leading to opportunities for corruption.