American Society of Civil Engineers

Participatory Action Research Approach to Public Sector Procurement Selection

by Peter E. D. Love, (corresponding author), (John Curtin Distinguished Professor, School of Built Environment, Curtin Univ. of Technology, GPO Box 1987, Perth WA 6845, Australia. E-mail:, David J. Edwards, (Professor, Birmingham City Business School, Birmingham City Univ., Perry Barr, Birmingham B42 2SU, U.K. E-mail:, Zahir Irani, (Head and Professor, Brunel Business School, Brunel Univ., Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH, U.K. E-mail:, and Amir Sharif, (Professor, Brunel Business School, Brunel Univ., Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH, U.K. E-mail:

Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, Vol. 138, No. 3, March 2012, pp. 311-322, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Section Heading: Contracting and Project Delivery Systems
Abstract: Selecting an appropriate procurement method to deliver supply chain efficiencies can reduce the costs of public sector projects by an average of 5%. Despite the considerable practical experience of Australian governments in the public sector, little agreement exists about how to effectively select an approach to deliver social infrastructure (e.g., schools, hospitals, museums, and prisons). Determining the optimal procurement approach for social infrastructure is a challenging task considering the array of procurement methods available and the criteria that must be assessed. Methods for procurement selection that have been developed are prescriptive and unable to deal with the complex and changing needs of public sector clients. As a result, a robust procurement selection process is developed and examined using a participatory action research. Focus groups, comprised of key stakeholders involved with delivering an educational project, examined the approach’s applicability and use in determining a suitable procurement method. Participants overwhelmingly supported the outcome, albeit a small minority who had limited wider exposure to alternative methods initially perceived their bastion (i.e., a default traditional lump sum [TLS]) to be a credible option. Indeed, those participants with limited knowledge procured almost 95% of social infrastructure projects using a TLS and did not adopt a formal procurement method selection approach. Application of the approach presented in this paper, by the public sector agency responsible for delivering its social infrastructure projects, provides a clear indication of demonstrable impact. The procurement approach that is produced enables decision makers to constantly reevaluate outcomes in the form of recommendations that are grounded in practice, reflection, and detailed evaluation.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Decision making
Risk management

Author Keywords:
Decision making
Public sector
Social infrastructure