Insufficient overview of state of and need for investment in local roads in Estonia

Toomas Mattson | 10/7/2010 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 7 October 2010 - In its latest audit, the National Audit Office has found that the actual state of local roads – which account for almost 40% of all roads in Estonia – is not known and that the financing needs for roadwork have not been determined, although the deadline for doing so, according to the decision of the Estonian parliament, was three years ago. As a result, the state and local governments are constantly arguing over how much should be allocated from tax revenue for the maintenance of local roads, while the amounts sought are hypothetical and not based on actual need.

Controversy surrounds the funding of local road maintenance, at the heart of which is the amount of support paid out to local governments from the state budget. In 2008, for example, the amount allocated was ca. 1.9 billion kroons; while in 2009 the same figure was ca. 1.2 billion kroons. Road maintenance costs are some of the largest that local governments incur: in recent years they have only been exceeded by costs on the upkeep of educational institutions.

Of the 207 local governments that responded to the survey organised by the National Audit Office in May 2010, 185 (89%) considered the amount of money spent on road maintenance annually insufficient, the majority feeling that state support should be increased to bridge the gap.

The need for greater funding than is currently being provided is also felt by representatives of the state, but the exact amount required is not known, since no studies have been carried out to determine it. As such, there is a lack of weighty arguments to support local government demands in terms of allocating support from the state budget for local roads.

In its organisation of the financing system for road maintenance, the state’s transport development plan for 2006–2013 set itself the goal of identifying the investment needs for local roads by the end of 2007, but this has yet to be achieved. The National Audit Office has found that neither the actual state of local roads nor the roadwork required to improve the overall situation has been investigated.

Although there is a national register of roads, the local governments audited had failed to submit a significant amount of data related to local roads and associated sites to the register. “To be honest, local governments are only motivated to submit the data that’s needed for funding to be allocated from the state budget,” said Airi Mikli, the Audit Director of the Local Authorities Audit Department of the National Audit Office. “And coupled with that, the state has been too passive in collecting data for the register itself.”

In carrying out roadwork or organising road maintenance in general, local governments must take into account the requirements set by the state of the condition of roads. However, a large number of local governments do not seem to think this is necessary. Therefore, it is not known how many local roads meet these requirements and how many do not. Since these shortcomings in the activities of local governments have been presenting for many years, the fact that the obligations are not being met cannot come as news to the state. At the same time, the state only rarely checks the condition of local roads through the activities of the Road Administration, citing not only a shortage of funds as the reason, but also a lack of evaluation criteria – since local governments have failed to identify the general state of their roads.

On the whole, local government officials themselves deem the state of their roads to be poor. The response given by the majority of the 207 respondents to the National Audit Office’s survey was that half or more of the roads in their city, town or municipality were in bad condition. However, these responses reflect the subjective assessment of the condition of the roads of the local government representatives and do not indicate with any precision how many local roads fail to meet the condition requirements established for public roads.

Local roads account for a significant proportion of all Estonian roads (ca. 40%): by the start of 2010 their total length, including private roads adopted for public use within local government areas, was ca. 23,200 km. It is worth comparing this figure to that of state roads, whose length at the same time totalled ca. 16,500 km.

The National Audit Office analysed the organisation of the maintenance of local roads in ten cities, towns and municipalities, assessing the activities of local governments in fulfilling their obligations arising from law. Specifically, the areas studied were the accounting of local roads, checking of their condition and determining the need for roadwork and planning funding for this, although the audit also highlighted the kind and extent of roadwork carried out by local governments and whether the quality of the work had been monitored. Also assessed in the course of the audit was whether the state had met its obligations in terms of local roads. Information for the period 2008–2009 was gathered for the audit.

Toomas Mattson
Head of Communication Service
National Audit Office
Telephone: +372 640 0777
Mobile: +372 51 34 900

  • Posted: 10/7/2010 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 11/10/2015 6:06 PM
  • Last Review: 11/10/2015 6:06 PM


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