Periodic road maintenance plan lacking: RAA

According to the Royal Audit Authority (RAA)’s  Performance Audit Report on the Department of Roads (DoR), and its five regional offices covering the period 2013-14 to 2017-18, a periodic maintenance plan of APA was found lacking in definite targets in terms of maintenance works and the implementation of monsoon restoration works were underachieved.

It also stated that the institutional set is absent up for emergencies for road maintenance.

The report showed that due to the lack of budget the regional offices depending on the season such as vegetation clearing, sweeping of roads, pothole patching were not met. The only real work that they can plan was road resurfacing but the target was set very low due to lack of budget.

The DoR in response stated that APA kept the target broad because of the recurrent nature of the maintenance works and lack of systematic monitoring. The DoR has initiated a system where all the regional offices are required to annually plan in the details of the maintenance activities that will be performed. The annual plan indicates the different maintenance activities which can be monitored and evaluated.

The RAA noted that there is no prioritization system instituted in the department for selecting roads for periodic maintenance. The prioritization and selection of roads for periodic maintenance were carried out in the absence of proper records and data on construction and maintenance of roads.

The DoR responded that the department is consistently working on developing a Road Asset Management System through the financial support of the World Bank for periodic maintenance in the country. The system will capture all the information about a road and the system will provide information on the condition of different road assets helping engineers to plan, review, propose and implement the timely interventions.

The RAA found out that despite suitable tools and efforts from the department, they faced various challenges in road maintenance. “The regional offices along with the department suffer from shortcomings in record-keeping of road maintenance.”

The failure of necessary actions was due to the lack of system in the roads department to receive complaints about the road conditions. The RAA stated that the complaints serve as evidence of the feedback on the road condition maintained by the roads department.

The RAA also recommended the road department to find a solution to compile the complaints and report it to the government and stakeholders which will ensure a smooth flow of road inspection.

In response, the DoR stated that it was not necessary to have a formal system for the complaints since the complaints were received through the media.

The report showed that investment in the road sector has been the topmost development priority evident from the budget allocated for construction and maintenance of roads. The work and human settlements ministry approved a budget of Nu 35,213.17mn from 2013-14 to 2017-18.   DoR along with the nine regional offices were approved Nu 29,323.77mn constituting 83.28% of the overall approved budget. The road maintenance works amounted to Nu 2,666.54mn constituting 9% of DoR’s budget.

Currently, DoR maintains 4,783.46km roads in the country.

Sonam Tashi from Thimphu