Implications of Public-Private Partnerships on Enforcing the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program Within the Federal Highway Administration

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Purpose. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how public-private partnerships (P3) projects influence contractors’ Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) compliance, accountability, and encouragement of social equity in Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) projects. The study explores the DBE program administrators’ perceptions of DBE goals, good faith efforts, and the strengths and challenges of implementing the DBE program in a P3 environment. The study also ascertained best practices for implementing the DBE program on P3 projects from experienced compliance administrators. Theoretical Framework: This study was based on the principal-agent (P-A) theoretical framework. The P-A theory is applied to FHWA’s P3 environment in that the public sector acts as the principal and the private sector as the agent. Methodology. The study employed a phenomenological design and collected data from DBE compliance administrators. The researcher conducted in-depth semistructured interviews with 24 DBE program administrators. The interviews were transcribed and coded for themes and categories using NVivo, a qualitative analysis software. The researcher also utilized an Excel spreadsheet to organize the coding analysis. Findings. The data analysis was undertaken following the guidelines of Richard Hycner. Participants perceived that a majority of the P3 contractors were meeting the DBE goals or demonstrating good faith efforts. The data also indicated strengths and challenges related to facilitating the program in the P3 environment. Conclusions and Recommendations. Current data indicate that the DBE goals are being met, and the contractors are performing good faith efforts. While the study showed that the P3 environment could encourage social equity, it also demonstrated perceived challenges that could hinder the implementation of the DBE program on P3 projects. FHWA should consider revisiting the DBE regulation to guide governance in the P3 environment, and there should be discussions at DBE training and conferences. The research offered future studies that could contribute to existing literature.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Public Administration
Public administration, Transportation