Yangchen C Rinzin

The Annual Performance Agreement (APA) of the roads department lacks realistic targets in maintaining roads including periodic maintenance plan.

The Royal Audit Authority (RAA) conducted a performance audit on the road department and its five regional offices for 2013-2014 to 2017-2018. The report was released yesterday.

 The APA was signed between the director of the department of works and regional offices to inculcate a performance-based culture with accountability mechanisms including feedback. Although the review found that APA is an annual operational plan, the plan lacks a definite and realistic target in terms of maintenance works. 

 “Activities related to plans were reflected in the APA but targets on maintenance activities were not set realistically,” the report stated.

 The report stated that success indicators for routine maintenance and monsoon restoration works were set to be the total length of roads maintained under regional offices’ jurisdiction. It was also found that the plan had not indicated different activities and annual coverage of roads was not set realistically. 

Further, the review showed that regional offices prepared activities under routine maintenance based on the season such as vegetation clearing, sweeping of roads, and potholes patching. “The only realistic activity they planned was road surfacing, however, target set was very low due to lack of budget.”

The report stated that planning of maintenance activities should have been based on activity, coverage and periods that indicated activities. The RAA could not assess the department’s performance of maintenance works because of a lack of properly stipulated and outlined plans.

However, in response to the audit report, the road department reasoned that APA targets were kept broad because of the “recurrent nature of the maintenance activities” and lack of systematic monitoring. The department has initiated a system wherein all the regional offices were required to annually plan in detail the maintenance activities to be performed. 

The RAA recommended that the road department should ensure APA targets prepared are realistic, measurable and develop a periodic maintenance plan that can help in the effective road management. It also recommended to standardised and strengthen its monitoring and supervision roles or routine maintenance works. 

The RAA’s review also found that despite adequate tools, policies and the department’s efforts, the department is faced with numerous challenges and barriers in road maintenance. 

“The department’s road maintenance practices are not preventive but reactive and rely intensively on costlier corrective maintenance,” the report stated. “The department and regional offices suffer from administrative shortcomings in its road maintenance planning and record-keeping.”

The report stated that road maintenance did not receive its due importance. 

Meanwhile, among many shortcomings, the report also found that regional offices and roads department do not have a system for receiving complaints against conditions of roads such as potholes, defective drains, damaged pavements, and corrugated roads. 

This has resulted in a lack of database to analyse the complaints to review and to take necessary actions.

The RAA’s review stated that complaints serve as an important source of public feedback on the effectiveness of the service and also the department’s works. 

RAA recommended department to review its way of reporting complaints to road users, government and other stakeholders that would ensure an efficient and smooth process of inspection and registration of public complaints, among many. 

However, the Department of the Roads has expressed to the RAA that it was unnecessary to have a formal complaint system since they receive complaints through mainstream media and social media on the different cases related to roads. 

The report showed that investment in the road sector had been and is the topmost development priority. Of the ministry’s total approved budget of Nu 35,213.17 Million (M) from 2013-14 to 2017-18, the roads department and regional offices were allocated Nu 29,323.77M. Road maintenance works cost Nu 2,666.54M. 

Department of roads maintains 4,783.46km roads comprising of the primary national highway, secondary national highway, dzongkhag road, gewog connectivity road and approach road as of now. 

Auditor General Tshering Kezang said that the performing audit report was to ascertain the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the department in the operation and management or road maintenance works.