Thinley Namgay

The joint sitting of the Parliament supported establishing road asset and information management system, close monitoring and coordination, and mandating adequate labour and equipment for routine maintenance.   

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) made the three recommendations to ensure the quality of roads as per Road Act, enhance planning and prioritisation of maintenance and improve the working environment and cost-effectiveness. 

PAC made the recommendations while presenting the review report of the performance audit report on road maintenance works on June 22. 

The review report was based on the performance audit conducted by the Royal Audit Authority (RAA) on road maintenance works in the Department of Roads (DoR) and its five regional offices (ROs) between 2013 and 2018. 

PAC observed non-compliance to the prescribed standards of roads as per the Road Act of Bhutan 2013, as most roads were constructed before the guidelines was framed. 

It also found regional officers were ill-equipped in terms of equipment and technical capacity and inadequate monitoring of roads. 

Trongsa’s National Council (NC) member, Tashi Samdrup, said PAC’s recommendations were relevant. 

He, however, said  RAA did not cover the status of all farm roads in the country. “Farm roads lack quality. RAA should do a proper audit on it.”

Today, there are 9,882.2km of farm roads in the country. 

Thimphu’s NC member, Tshewang Rinzin, said proper plans and policies are needed to narrow the gap between highways and farm roads in terms of maintenance.

He said rural people whose lands are damaged by farm road construction should also get compensation.

According to Maenbi-Tsaenkhar’s MP, Choki Gyeltshen, some roads are never maintained after blacktopping for more than 10 years. 

He said blacktops only last for four to five years. “Blacktopping of Gasa, Trashiyangtse and Dagana dzongkhag roads are not complete today.”

Kengkhar-Weringla’s MP, Rinzin Jamtsho, said that the government should plan road activity focusing on quality, climate resilience, and proper budget allocation. 

Works and Human Settlement Minister Dorji Tshering said that the ministry would ensure quality roads. 

He said that the ministry would initiate micro-surfacing of existing blacktopped roads to increase their life span, adding that the government had increased the daily wage for the private construction workers from Nu 230 to Nu 460, which would address the growing discrepancy. 

Lyonpo Dorji Tshering also informed Parliament members that the Road Safety and Transport Authority had conducted road fitness test of Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway and would conduct the same for Thimphu-Trashigang highway.

Meanwhile, the audit report pointed out that DoR does not have a plan for periodic maintenance works, did not institute formalised prioritisation system and did not carry out periodic maintenance of roads.

It stated that during the financial year 2017-2018, 51 monsoon structures of the 155 planned were not constructed, resulting in under achievement of planned targets by 32.90 percent.

It also stated that 71 structures were constructed by ROs  without an approved budget.  

Edited by Tashi Dema