An assessment of project implementation in the public sector : a case study of the Ghana prisons service

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The implementation of projects in the public sector has been observed to be plagued with a wide range of problems and issues. Cusworth and Franks (1993) describe project failure on two levels: being failure to implement the project effectively, that is on time, within budget and according to project plan; and the inability of the project facilities created to achieve the intended impact. These situations have been associated with weak institutional and financial arrangements within the public sector. This study, therefore, aimed at assessing the problems and challenges associated with project implementation in the public sector with particular reference to the Ghana Prisons Service. It also sought to examine the regulatory and administrative framework governing the implementation of projects by the Service. The study adopted and used the case study design. This was to ensure an in-depth study of project implementation in the Ghana Prisons Service over a period of ten years. Both primary and secondary data were used in the study. While secondary data was gathered through desk study, structured questionnaires and interview guides were used to solicit relevant data from prison officers, convict prisoners, staff of NGOs' and consultants/contractors. The study revealed that the major problems and challenges associated with project implementation in the Ghana Prisons Service include: lack of financial and logistical resources; lack of professional managerial skills; lack of leadership commitment and apathy; under-estimation and incorrect project costing; improper planning; undue bureaucracy and reliance on procedures; unrealistic project schedule; lack of communication and lack of incentives for prisoners. The Public Procurement Act (Act 663) of 2003; the Environmental Protection Act, 1994 (490); the Financial Administration Act, 2003 and the Internal Audit Agency Act, 2003 were found to be the main regulatory framework governing project implementation in the Prisons Service while the design and initiation of most projects were centralized at the Prisons headquarters under the purview of a technical unit. The study further revealed that the current administrative responses to address the problems and challenges include: internal borrowing, especially from officers' welfare fund and sourcing credit facilities externally to fund less capital intensive projects; and relying on central government, non¬governmental organizations, religious bodies and individuals for funding and provision of logistics. Where funding was unavailable, projects were normally suspended. The study recommends the following: intensifying the internal income generating activities of the Service to raise substantial funds to support less capital intensive projects; adequate and timely release of funds, and provision of logistics; effective feedback systems and communication of relevant information; assigning realistic project schedule; leadership commitment; provision of incentives to prisoners; elimination of bureaucratic bottlenecks and cumbersome procedures, and building the capacity of personnel to implement projects.  
A Thesis submitted to the Institute of Distance Learning, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Commonwealth Executive Master of Business Administration (CEMBA)