5 Ways to Transform PFI Meetings from a Burden to an Effective Management Tool

By Stephen James on

PFI MeetingsThe thought of attending yet another meeting with your PFI contractor may seem like a pointless chore… you may feel that there’s too much talk and too little action by your contractor thereafter. Yet, there are ways in which you can easily transform your PFI meetings from what may be a burden to an effective management tool for improving contractor performance and for saving you time and money on your monitoring activities. A well administered and documented meeting can enable you to efficiently control the performance of your PFI contractor by:

  • Providing a forum for key parties to discuss and find solutions to contractual issues, without lengthy correspondence and disputes
  • Questioning and interrogating performance monitoring data
  • Keeping a formal record of decisions made and actions taken, including tracking and escalation of long-outstanding issues, helping to avoid end user challenges
  • Using the PFI company’s clout to enforce sub-contractor performance promptly.

How to Transform PFI Meetings

Most PFI contracts will include a Liaison Procedure, which sets out how formal meetings should be conducted. In many cases, however, the procedure will be too cumbersome or out of sync with the way the contract is managed in practice. It is therefore advisable to review the procedure a year or two after service commencement and agree more suitable arrangements with the PFI company and the main sub-contractors, to match the reality of the contract on the ground.

The following tips will help you transform your meetings into the key contract management tool they are meant to be.

1. PFI Meeting Agenda

To ensure the best use of meeting time, the agenda should include both standing items and topical issues that are a priority for the client. The Liaison Procedure may include a list of issues to be discussed at such meetings, but not all of them may be relevant to the operational period. Reviewing and revising this list is therefore a good starting point for an overall assessment of the meeting structure. Standing items should include:

  • Minutes of the previous meeting and outstanding actions
  • Review of the monthly performance report (based on highlights, by exception)
  • Change control
  • Major actions for each party in the Monitoring calendar for the current and next 2-3 months.

To keep control of the meetings and any issues arising, you should either administer and set the agendas for the meetings yourself, or if the meetings are administered by the contractor, provide a list of agenda items well in advance of each meeting, so that the contractor has no excuse not to come prepared.

2. Hierarchy

The Liaison Procedure, Service Specification and/or the Payment Mechanism are likely to require various meetings. The standard structure usually consists of board, operational and end user meetings. It is advisable to conduct a thorough review of these provisions to determine a structure that optimises the overall effectiveness of meetings. The review should consider:

  1. Frequency of PFI meetings – are there enough issues to justify the stated frequency of senior level meetings? Are issues left to fester too long between operational and end user meetings?
  2. Do the terms of reference for each meeting adequately reflect their purpose as understood by the client and contractor representatives?
  3. Does the meeting sequence allow for timely escalation of unresolved issues between end user – operational – board meetings?
  4. Are the right people attending each meeting to allow issues to be dealt with and resolved there and then?

In some PFI contracts the client is not represented on the board of the PFI company and does not therefore have regular access to its senior management and directors. If this is the case for you,  it is good practice to have regular meetings to bring together the senior management of both your organisation and your contractor. This provides a structured route for escalation, strategic decisions and in-principle discussion of major variations.

3. Minutes

To ensure accuracy and to keep a firm control of actions, you should either take the minutes or review them in detail before they are finalised. The minutes should also always have ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘when’ columns to keep a track of actions. For long-outstanding items it is advisable for the minutes to include a dated record of when the issue was discussed at previous PFI meetings.

4. Keeping track of topical issues

To avoid issues that crop up between meetings falling by the wayside it helps to keep a regularly updated list of any outstanding/ topical issues to go on the agendas of forthcoming meetings.

5. Regular review

It is important to ensure that PFI meeting regimes remain fit for purpose throughout the life of the contract. Therefore, once the good practice set out above has been implemented, there should be further periodic reviews to ensure that the frequency, agendas and attendance at the various meetings adequately reflect current needs and issues.

PFI Meetings – Summary

The 5 ways to improve the efficiency of your PFI meetings are to ensure you have a:

  1. Fit for purpose agenda with fixed and topical items
  2. Suitable meeting structure with the right frequency, terms of reference, attendees and sequencing
  3. Set of Minutes kept or reviewed by clients, with who, what and why columns and dated record of long outstanding items
  4. Tracker of topical issues for meeting agendas
  5. Periodic review of meeting structure and requirements.

You may be interested in our article on how good PFI document management saves time and effort. Click here to learn 5 tips for good practice.

For support and advice on any operational PFI issues, please do not hesitate to contact Allan on T. 0845 345 0130 or by email: advice@bestpracticegroup.com