Road woes a longstanding issue for state officials
The National Works Agency (NWA) was created as an executive agency under the Ministry of Transport Works and Housing in 2001 and given the responsibility of implementing capital projects for road rehabilitation and construction islandwide. The agency is directly responsible for the maintenance of approximately 5,000 kilometres of main road network, as well as approximately 740 bridges and other infrastructure. However over the last few years, concerns have been raised by government officials about the manner in which the agency has been executing its duties.
In his Sectoral Debate presentation in July 2016, Minister of state for Works in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Everald Warmington, said the Government had set out to intensify the rate at which routine maintenance activities on the main road network are executed, and so improvements in performance would be required from the NWA.
"A key part of our routine activities is the patching of our roads... I am not comfortable with the state of affairs with this activity. Too often we see where roads have been cut and prepared for patching, but the work takes weeks to be completed.
This is unacceptable!" Warmington had said.
"We will ensure that cuts are repaired within 48 hours of being prepared and small holes don't become craters because of slow or no response," he stated.
"Too often ... there are small things, such as a pothole or a broken manhole cover that goes unattended for an inordinately long time, resulting in accidents or serious cost implications for Government.
We intend to deal with this issue. The NWA has a regional structure and we intend to ensure that this structure works for the benefit of the people."
In December 2015, the Auditor General's Department, in its Performance Audit Report on the NWA's quality management function, noted that the agency needed improvements to provide adequate assurance that road construction and rehabilitation projects, are completed based on prescribed quality standards and procedures.
"NWA did not conduct timely calibration of critical testing equipment to assess and monitor their operational efficiency, which increases the risk that the standard specifications for the quality of the road network may not be met.
NWA's laboratory plays a vital role in the quality assurance mechanism, as it conducts quality assurance tests to ensure that materials used in road infrastructure works meet the required quality control standards. However, we found that NWA did not conduct the independent calibrations on a timely basis," the report said.
The auditor general said the marshall stability flow and the ELE compressive strength machines used for testing asphaltic concrete were not calibrated annually as required and that the two pieces of equipment failed the calibration tests on both occasions that the assessments were conducted.
"NWA needs to obtain international independent quality certification to provide greater assurance that the agency's quality management system is adequate.
Such certification would also build public confidence that the system is consistent with internationally recognised standards in providing a safe road network," the report stated.