The Risk Governance Assurance in Dubai

Introduction

Introduction

The first chapter introduces the background of the research, provides the rationale, and identifies the research problem. The research questions and objectives of the study are discussed to define the goal that has to be achieved in the project. The chapter also outlines hypotheses and the significance of the study as was defined in the research proposal. It concludes with a detailed description of the significance of the study and an outline of the entire thesis.

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Background to the Research

The government of Dubai has been investing a lot of time and resources in mega infrastructural development as a way of boosting economic growth and reducing the overreliance on the oil and gas sector. Some of these projects include the construction of major roads, modern railway lines, government buildings, and the expansion of airports. Other major projects are still at the blueprint stage and are likely to cost billions of dirhams. According to Munier (2014), the success of these major initiatives is always a priority factor for the government. The ability to complete a given program as per the planned standards within the set timeline and budget is critical. Unfortunately, not all such public initiatives are always completed within the pre-determined timeline and using the planned budget. Delays and cost overruns are the most common and undesirable events that often occur in a project. When the government is forced to increase resources for a given project, the promised value for such a program will be reduced. Similarly, when a project is not completed within the planned deadline, it may be affected by external environmental factors such as inflation and unfavorable natural forces. Effective risk governance may help in eliminating or reducing the occurrence of risk factors that may have a crippling effect on a given project.

According to Ellis and Sherman (2014), understanding the most important risk governance determinants that contribute to a project’s success is crucial when managing public projects. One should understand how to identify determinants of risk governance in each public program. The goal in such undertakings is to ensure that all the possible risks in any given initiative are identified early enough and classified in a way that makes the mitigation process less challenging. Although some risk factors are common in almost all public projects, Dempsey (2014) advises that it is important to treat each initiative as uniquely as possible. Assumptions made in each should be realistic and not blindly based on the results of previous projects. Internal auditors play a critical role in mapping risk factors at the time that the project will last. Frynas (2015) says that it starts at the planning stage where all the possible risks in a program have to be identified and the management strategies defined in clear terms, including resources needed to counter them. The plan should also define how chief risk officers and internal auditors should cooperate with the top managers to ensure that such risks are effectively managed in case they occur. In this paper, the researcher seeks to determine and assess the most important risk governance determinants that contribute to public projects’ success in Dubai from the perspective of internal audit functions.

Research Rational

According to a report by Wassenaer (2017), the government of Dubai, through Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (Dewa), has launched an ambitious initiative to build the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) in the world at a cost of 14.2 billion dirhams. This is just one of the many mega programs that the government plans to undertake in its effort to improve various sectors of the economy. In fact, Verzuh (2015) observes that 6.3% of the United Emirates government’s spending (about 3 trillion dirhams) goes to the construction sector. It is a clear demonstration of the growing significance of the sector. These megaprojects are undertaken to achieve specific goals. The emirate of Dubai has taken the lead in ensuring that the country’s economy is diversified. Major investments have been made in the sector of transport, communication, security, tourism, and agriculture among others. Most of these projects have been successful. However, some of them were not completed in time. However, the problem of cost overrun and other risks have affected the ability to realize success to the expected levels. As Burtonshaw-Gunn (2016) observes, the existence of risks may not be a proper justification to avoid taking major projects. However, it is crucial to manage the risks to enhance the level of success of programs. This research seeks to assess the important risk governance determinants that contribute to the success of public projects. The document will provide critical insights on how the government can manage public project risks and enhance success in each mega initiative that is embraced. It will also provide information on how various stakeholders need to coordinate their activities when handling public projects to ensure that the desired goals are realized.

Research Problem

According to El-Karim, Elnawawy, and Abdel-Alin (2017), major public projects in Dubai have attracted both local and international developers because of the prompt and attractive payments made by the government. However, it is worrying that some of these developers sometimes fail to complete these projects are per the initially agreed terms, citing various economic and environmental challenges. Cost and schedule overrun are some of the major problems that affect the ability to achieve the desired level of success in public projects (Wassenaer 2017). Having a case where a project ends up costing twice as much as the planned budget can be very frustrating. One is left to wonder about the kind of planning and implementation strategies that led to such alarming cost inflations. Effective project managers, as Musa (2017) observes, should foresee all the possible challenges in a project during the planning stage. Whenever the occurrence of a risk factor comes as a shock to the program management team, it is a sign that there was no proper planning. Such mistakes can have serious financial consequences on public projects, most of which often run into billions of dirhams. Stewart, Warburton, and Smith (2017) argue that the existence of a proper risk governance mechanism in all public projects is one of the critical steps in enhancing success. That is why the study focuses on determining and assessing the most important risk governance determinants.

Research Questions

Risk governance is a wide topic, and as a researcher, it is important to define the specific area of interest upon which the study will focus. The research questions will help in defining the issues that will be investigated when conducting the study. As Mousavi (2015) observes, research questions act as a guide in data collection and analysis. The following are the primary research questions for the project:

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  • What are the existing determinants of risks governance in the public sector?
  • What is the significance of rating the importance of the determinants of risk governance?
  • What is the association between risk governance determinants and project success?
  • What is the association between risk governance and the occurrence of negative events of projects?
  • What are the audit function tasks in managing risks in public organizations?

The researcher used both primary data collected from the sampled respondents and information gathered from the review of the literature to answer the above questions.

Aim and Objectives

The aim of the research is to determine and assess the most important risk governance determinants that contribute to the project’s success. Through this study, it will be possible to understand what project managers and government officials need to do to ensure that major risks in public projects are avoided or managed effectively. According to Oxford Business Group (2016), proper risk governance enhances the ability to realize the desired success in a program. The following are the specific research objectives that had to be realized in the study:

  • To review the existing risk governance frameworks and develop/adopt relevant risk governance structures for Dubai public sector context.
  • To review and extract the most important risk governance determinants.
  • To seek the opinion of auditors and risk managers on the importance of the extracted risk governance determinants.
  • To use statistical methods to determine the importance of risk governance determinants and to confirm the association between risk governance and project success.

Research Hypotheses

The preliminary review of literature that was conducted during the proposal development stage provided basic information about specific issues of interest in this study. Indeed, further review of the literature was conducted when developing this document as Fowler (2013) recommends, and analysis of primary data was done just to have comprehensive information on issues under investigation. The following are hypotheses that were analyzed using primary data.

  • There is no significant difference in rating the importance of determinants of risk governance.
  • Determinants of risk governance are positively related to projects’ success.
  • Determinants of risk governance are negatively related to the occurrence of negative events of projects.
  • The relationship between determinants of risk governance and project success is moderated by the internal audit functions.

Significance of the Study

Risk governance is an area of study that has attracted the attention of many scholars over the years. Studies have been conducted to investigate major risk factors when undertaking major public projects and how they should be managed. Books and journal articles have been published discussing best practices in program management and how risks should be managed to achieve the desired goals. However, Bai (2014) observes that most of the existing literature was published based on studies that were conducted in western countries. Most of them are based on studies conducted in Europe and North America. Stewart, Warburton, and Smith (2017) observe that it is important to acknowledge that although the world is increasingly becoming integrated due to technological advancements, there are fundamental differences between the western world and that in the Middle East.

The availability of technical know-how, infrastructural development, culture, and local needs in Dubai is different from that of California in the United States. According to Musa (2017), it might be possible to hire expatriates from foreign countries to work on local projects because of their expertise. However, assumptions made in the United States may not hold true in Dubai. The significant differences of the two regions geographically, economically, politically, and even socially means that events that can affect projects in the United States may not be exactly similar to those that may affect such initiatives in the United Arab Emirates (Oxford Business Group 2016). It is of concern that adequate literature is yet to be published on how to manage local risks using the available resources. This study will address that literature gap. The research will form one of the risk management documents that focus primarily on risk management in Dubai and other emirates within the country. It will be an important guide to the government and private developers within the region currently involved in various megaprojects. It will provide a global perspective of solving local problems.

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Thesis Outline

The researcher designed the study to ensure that every activity was done in a systematic manner and in a way that would ensure the desired goals were achieved. The study had 12 chapters as follows.

  • Chapter 1: Introduces the topic and provides the background information of the study. The aims and objectives, research questions, the significance of the research, rationale of the study, and hypotheses are outlined.
  • Chapter 2: Provides a critical literature review on the issue of risk management in public projects. Risk factors that may have a serious impact on the success of the projects are discussed.
  • Chapter 3: The literature review discusses the identified risk factors and their relationship with project success.
  • Chapter 4: The section provides a further review of the literature on specific risk factors relevant to the local projects in Dubai.
  • Chapter 5: A conceptual framework helps in understanding the relationship between determinants of risk governance and project success.
  • Chapter 6: Methodology section provides a detailed analysis of data sources, methods of collection, and analysis of primary data. It discusses all the assumptions made in the study.
  • Chapter 7: The reliability analysis and descriptive statistics section focus on the effectiveness of the instrument used in the data analysis.
  • Chapter 8: Factor analysis presents the results of each of the tests performed.
  • Chapter 9: Analysis of variance shows the relationship between the independent and dependent variables.
  • Chapter 10: Correlation analysis focuses on findings from the correlation analysis of different determinants of risk governance to project success.
  • Chapter 11: The discussion section brings together the information obtained from the primary and secondary sources of data.
  • Chapter 12: Conclusion provides a comprehensive summary of the entire document.

Summary

This chapter introduces the topic and provides detailed background and rationale for the study. It discusses the research problem and objectives that should be realized by the end of the project. The research questions are drawn from the research objectives to facilitate the collection and analysis of relevant data from both primary and secondary data sources. Hypotheses were developed based on the preliminary review of the literature, and the significance of the study is also discussed. An outline of the thesis structure is also provided.

Methodology

Introduction

The government of Dubai is keen on promoting infrastructural development in the country to spur economic growth. Many of these projects are costly. As the government continues to make more investments in other major projects in the fields of transport, construction, and security among others, it is of interest to ensure that the intended goals are realized in the best manner possible. The internal audit function is critical in ensuring that these programs are completed within the desired time. In the previous chapters that focused on the literature review, it is clear that internal audit functions help in early detection and proper management of risks before they can affect various activities being undertaken in such big projects. In this chapter, the focus is to provide a detailed explanation of the method that was used in conducting the investigation. According to Saunders and Lewis (2017), it is critical to come up with a proper plan when conducting research. The chapter outlines the approach that was taken to collect data from various sources, the analysis approach, and major assumptions made in the study. The chapter is divided into nine sections.

Research Philosophy

The first step that a researcher should take when conducting major academic research is to define the most appropriate research philosophy. Nestor and Schutt (2014, p. 41) define research philosophy as the “belief about ways in which data about a phenomenon should be collected, analyzed and used.” It focuses on the nature, source, and approach used in the development of knowledge in a given study. Hanzlick (2015) explains that the chosen philosophy defines assumptions and beliefs that will be upheld when collecting and analyzing data. A researcher may embrace any of the four research philosophies (pragmatism, positivism, realism, and interpretivism) based on aims, objectives, and the set of research questions. One must ensure that the chosen philosophy is able to meet the set goals and facilitate answering the research questions in the most appropriate manner possible. Pragmatism research philosophy holds the assumption that a concept can only be considered relevant if it can support action. It holds the belief that the world can be interpreted in many ways and no single approach can befit all scenarios when conducting a study. As such, the most basic way of considering the validity of a concept is its ability to support a given desired action. Realism holds the belief that reality and the human mind are independent. What one believes may not necessarily be the truth unless it is supported by scientific methods of analysis. Interpretivism requires a researcher to interpret various elements of the study and in doing so, one is allowed to integrate his interest.

The nature of questions and the objectives that should be achieved in this research makes the first three research philosophies discussed above less desirable because of their principal assumptions. The most appropriate research philosophy in this study is positivism. It holds that a view or a concept can only be factual if it is gained through observation. A trustworthy knowledge must be gained through the senses and may sometimes require the use of an appropriate instrument. The researcher’s role is strictly limited to that of collection and interpretation of data (Yanow & Schwartz-Shea 2014). A researcher must remain objective throughout the process of collecting and analyzing data. Personal opinion or interests in the study should not be allowed to influence the process in any way. This approach made it possible to analyze how internal audit functions help in the identification and management of risks in Dubai’s public projects.

Research Conceptual Framework

The process of collecting data can sometimes be a complex undertaking that requires a thorough understanding of steps that should be taken and assumptions that can be made at each stage. Looking at the conceptual framework below (figure 1) helps a researcher to understand these steps and beliefs that should be embraced in each stage. The framework shows that the first step that a researcher should take is the identification of the research philosophy. The next step should be the selection of the research approach that must be in line with the beliefs and assumptions of the chosen philosophy. A researcher can then select the most appropriate research strategy based on the goals of the study. The process then narrows down further to data collection and analysis. Using this framework, it is easy to define the path that a researcher takes to collect and analyze primary data collected from respondents.

Research conceptual framework 
Figure: 1. Research conceptual framework 

Research Approach

The research’s conceptual framework above shows that after identifying the appropriate research philosophy, the next important phase is to determine the most appropriate approach based on assumptions and beliefs of the selected philosophy. The research used the quantitative research method as the most appropriate research design. According to Nestor and Schutt (2014), quantitative research is always associated with a positivist paradigm that emphasizes the collection of data and conducting a statistical analysis before one can make conclusions. The researcher developed hypotheses based on research questions. Hypotheses focused on determining the relationship between various variables in risk management and how internal auditing enhances such processes. The variables were analyzed statistically to establish the relationship.

Development of Questionnaire

When developing a questionnaire, Hanzlick (2015) strongly suggests that emphasis should be placed on its ability to collect the required information in the simplest way possible. Sections of the questionnaire and questions asked should be unambiguous. The questionnaire was designed and reviewed to ensure that it focused on the relevant information that needed to be collected from participants. The language used in designing questions was simple to avoid cases of misinterpretation. Given that the quantitative method was the chosen research design, the questions used were closed-ended. Using the Likert scale, it was possible to assign statistical values to each of the possible responses from participants. The structured format of questions made it easy for respondents to fill in questionnaires sent to them within a short period. The approach made it possible to analyze their responses statistically.

Structure of the Questionnaire

According to Nestor and Schutt (2014), it is always advisable to develop a questionnaire after conducting the initial review of the literature. The information from the review should form the basis of questions and the structure that the questionnaire should have. This study was no exception. The questionnaire had 148 questions in the following five categories:

  • Part 1-The determinants of risk governance framework which consists of 93 questions
  • Part 2- The risk-based audit and the project success which consists of 28 questions
  • Part 3- The occurrence of negative events of projects which consists of 10 questions
  • Part 4- The role of the internal audit function in risk management which consists of 9 questions
  • Part 5- the demographic information which consists of 6 questions

In each of the first four parts of the questionnaire, the five-point Likert scale (very unlikely, unlikely, neutral, likely, and very likely) was used to determine the degree of agreement that respondents have towards each question that was posed to them. The approach made it easy to code these responses for purposes of mathematical analysis. The last part of the questionnaire focused on the demographic information of the respondents. The level of management of respondents, their work experience, educational achievements, age, gender, and nationality was captured in this section. Tracy (2013) argues that in many cases the demographic factors define assumptions and beliefs of respondents on a given issue. Factors such as age, academic qualifications, and experience increase one’s knowledge on a given issue. On the other hand, gender and management positions that one holds can influence the assumptions and biases of an individual when answering specific questions. This section made it possible to capture any form of bias along demographic lines.

Administration of the Questionnaire

According to Nestor and Schutt (2014), an effective questionnaire that captures all the important issues of the study is crucial in the collection of the primary data. In many cases, poorly developed questions limit the capacity to get the needed information as defined in the research objectives. After developing the questionnaire, the next important step is to ensure that it is delivered to the required respondents. The delivery process can be challenging, especially when dealing with individuals who have busy schedules or when the geographical distribution is wide. In this section, the researcher will analyze the steps used in designing the questionnaire and the approach that was used in its distribution.

Extracting variables from the literature review was the first step in the development of the questionnaire. The review provided important information about determinants of risk governance assurance from the perspective of internal audit functions. By explaining independent factors whose occurrence (or lack of occurrence) influences dependent factors in project management, the researcher was able to identify independent and dependent variables in the study. The review provided preliminary information on the relationship between these variables. The information made it possible to develop questions that focused on a further investigation of the established relationship. All the questions used in the research were developed in the same pattern, except those that focused on determining the demographic factors of the respondents.

Reviewing and editing by the director of studies and getting approval from the management of the British University in Dubai were important before moving to the next step. As academic research, it was important to involve the director of the study to approve the questions before sending them to respondents. Fowler (2013) notes that sometimes a researcher may develop questions that a section of respondents may find offensive or inappropriate based on their socio-cultural beliefs or gender. Getting an expert opinion on such issues is critical to ensuring that the set questions would be received positively. It was also important to get the opinion and suggestions of the director as an assurance that the research was taking the right direction. It was expected that the director would identify areas of weaknesses in the questionnaire and suggest necessary changes before it was used. The stage helped the researcher to come up with an effective instrument of data collection.

The next important face was to identify the right individuals to take part in this study. Targeting the staff from the internal audit department and risk management functions and the top managers were considered relevant. These are individuals who are constantly involved in the identification and management of risks in public projects. The experience in past projects would help in shedding light on the issues the researcher was investigating. Junior employees who are always involved in the identification of risks at the earliest stages possible and the senior officers such as CEO, CFO, CRO, and CEA in the public sector, who are always involved with the making of policies, were targeted for the study. A complete list of participants who were involved in the study is given in the appendices.

The next stage was to ensure that the document is distributed to the targeted individuals. Distributing hard copies of the questionnaire in the Middle East Risk Management Forum dated 11- 12 December 2017 was done by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai, upon making a special request. The forum was attended by 500 professionals in risk and internal audit fields in the Government of Dubai. As such, it was a perfect forum to collect the needed information for the research. The researcher further used survey monkey to gather data from a wide range of respondents. Tracy (2013) observes that having a wide range of respondents helps in addressing issues such as bias and misleading information that may come from a few individuals who may have personal interests in the outcome of the study.

Selection of Respondents and Data Collection

According to Picardi and Masick (2013), when collecting primary data, one must understand that bias may be witnessed based on the managerial position of respondents. The top managers may want to paint a picture of perfection to protect their image. On the other hand, the junior-most employees may give a grimmer picture of the situation than is the case because of their desire to express their frustrations. It is the reason why the researcher selected participants from all levels of management, starting from the top-level (chief executive officers, chief financial officers, marketing directors, and human resource managers) to officers in risk management functions and auditors in the public sector in the Government of Dubai. The sample includes expatriates working in Dubai’s public projects. In such a highly diversified group of respondents, it was easy to overcome various challenges in data collection. The data were obtained from governmental organizations in Dubai, which deal with various public projects. Of interest were departments that had been involved in megaprojects over the recent past. The researcher identified 25 organizations, and all of them are funded by the government of Dubai.

Research Questions

According to Nestor and Schutt (2014), it is important to develop research questions that will provide comprehensive information about the area of study that one is investigating. As explained above, the researcher developed 148 questions that were sent to the respondents. Questions were structured to ensure uniformity when providing answers. Hanzlick (2015) says that administering structured questions is simpler than when one has to handle unstructured questions. Instead of providing lengthy explanations to each question, a respondent only has to choose one of the options provided. All the questions were based on the five basic questions that were developed in chapter 1 of this document. The five basic questions include the following:

  • What are the existing determinants of risk governance in the public sector?
  • What is the significance of rating the importance of the determinants of risk governance?
  • What is the association between risk governance determinants and project success?
  • What is the association between risk governance and the occurrence of negative events of projects?
  • What are the audit function tasks in managing the risks in public organizations?

It is important to note that the review of the literature provided basic answers to these questions. The information obtained from the literature review was then used to develop various variables that were analyzed using the primary data collected from the 146 questions.

Sample Size

The researcher was keen on identifying a relatively large sample size. Fowler (2013) argues that it is common to find cases where the majority of those who commit to taking part in the study fail to do so for various reasons. As such, it is advisable to select a large sample size to ensure that even if a section fails to answer the questions in time, there will be a sufficient number of questionnaires that will be answered. The researcher contacted 500 respondents through e-mails, social media, a risk management forum that was held in Dubai, and other platforms. However, only 151 of the 500 respondents made an effort to answer questions within the set timeline. It was noted that a few of these 151 respondents did not complete answering all the questions by the time of submission. Only 113 questionnaires were fully completed and ready for analysis. The overall response rate that was achieved was 22.6%. A sample size of 113 respondents was considered adequate to support the study. The information obtained from the other 38 questionnaires that were not fully completed was also important.

Data Analysis

After collecting the needed data from respondents, the next phase involved the analysis. As explained above, the quantitative research design was considered the most appropriate in achieving the set objectives. The first step of the analysis was to code the collected data into an SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Scientists) spreadsheet. After coding the data, the next phase was to run an analysis based on what was desired. The statistical analysis focused on the following:

  • Reliability test. The researcher was interested in measuring the internal consistency, and the use of Cronbach’s alpha was selected as the most appropriate method because it made it possible to see the relationship between coded groups. Hanzlick (2015) explains that Cronbach’s alpha can be considered a measure of scale reliability. Determining the average inter-correlation among coded items made it possible to establish the relationship between various variables in the study. It facilitated the measurement of the dimensionality of the data.
  • Descriptive analysis. The statistical analysis made it possible to determine the relationship between the identified variables. However, it was also important to express the views of respondents beyond the provided statistics. As such, elements of descriptive analysis were also embraced, although the chosen design was quantitative. The researcher explained the views of respondents on various issues to help justify the statistics that were obtained from them.
  • Factor analysis. The analysis was helpful in the extraction of critical factors that explain risk governance determinants from the observed data. The analysis applied maximum likelihood as the method of extraction because it enables computation of varying indexes, determination of the significance of factors, and the calculation of correlation and confidence intervals (Fowler 2013). The analysis was done on 10 scales which include strategy, risk appraisal and insight, risk management and governance, review risk development and decision, risk communication, risk culture, risk appetite, risk-based audit and project success, the impact of negative events, and internal audit functions.
  • Analysis of variance. The analysis of variance, mostly known as ANOVA was used to analyze the relationship between different variables. It is critical in the analysis of hypotheses to determine if the data collected accepts or rejects the set relationship between the variables.
  • Correlation analysis. The researcher was also interested in quantifying the strength of the association of variables using correlation coefficients. Using this analysis, it was possible to statistically analyze the relationship between the ten latent clusters (scales) outlined above with the success of public projects. The analysis focused on how each of them affects projects success.

Summary

The chapter has provided a detailed discussion of methods that will be used to collect and analyze data from respondents. The research instrument used to collect data, and the method of its delivery has been discussed. Positivism was identified as the most appropriate methodology because the research design selected was quantitative analysis. The chapter has identified the sample size that was used and the specific individuals who participated in the study. Various statistical methods relevant for the analysis of the primary data have also been discussed

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