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Public Sector Case study: PA’s Iraq water work

Ross Tieman
Financial Times - Business of Consulting Report, page 316 November 2009

Ross Tieman looks at the work PA's Iraq water work. featuring Angus Jackson, an emerging markets specialist.

Some public sector consulting projects are not for the faint-hearted. In March 2005 Angus Jackson, an emerging markets specialist at PA Consulting Group, began a four-year project in southern Iraq to help restore safe water supplies in the Basra region.

Augus Jackson Portrait

The client was Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID), with an £18m budget for emergency infrastructure intervention, and £40m of follow-on funding for an infrastructure services programme focused on electricity and water supplies.

On arrival in Basra Mr Jackson found many communities with inadequate water supplies, not because of war damage, but rather because 30 years of sanctions and inadequate maintenance had left facilities out of order or with restricted capacity.

With back-up from London, and in close collaboration with Iraqi officials, he organised contractors and utility staff to get treatment works and pumps back in operation.

But to ensure a sustainable service recovery, he also opened a centre for training maintenance engineers, and managed projects to bring water to communities not previously supplied.

“Capacity building was an important element,” Mr Jackson says.

Progress with long-term improvements was hampered by a deterioration in the security situation, which at times during the four-year project made it impossible to visit construction sites and plants.

But Mr Jackson says his core role as a consultant was nonetheless comparable with that in classic public sector project design and implementation. Today, 1m people receive potable water because of the successful assignment.

An ability to speak Arabic and a cultural familiarity, after previously working in Egypt, were important contributors to success, he says. So was a belief in the value of what he was doing, and a determination not to disappoint the many Iraqi friends he had made, and those who needed the water.

“I felt similar loyalty to the people who were benefiting from the project in Egypt,” he says.

“It is truly amazing what you can achieve with Iraqi engineers and contractors who are just as committed to ensuring supplies.”

Mr Jackson, aged 35, was awarded Britain’s Order of the British Empire for his consultancy work. 

This featured in Ross Tieman's article 'Originality needed to merit fees'. 

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