National Audit Office: The lack of anticipation of possible obstacles and insufficient supervision are the main deficiencies in local road construction

4/26/2022 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 26 April 2022— The lack of anticipation of possible obstacles and insufficient supervision are the main deficiencies in the construction of local roads, National Audit Office finds in its audit report published today. In seven of the 18 construction and repair works carried out on local roads in 2019-2021, the National Audit Office found that local governments have not been sufficiently careful in mitigating possible risks. The audit showed that due to a careless attitude towards the prevention of problems, the construction or repair of roads can become more expensive for the local government and the elimination of errors can become more time-consuming.

The National Audit Office also analysed works that have attracted the attention of the public due to quality problems, such as the renovation of the roads of the Moonaküla quarter in the city of Rakvere and Vanemuise Street in the city of Tartu. It was investigated whether local governments have done their utmost to mitigate significant risks and prevent problems. It turned out that it was not always done and that the level of risk management in local governments was uneven.

“Problems in the quality of works are often caused by a lack of preliminary studies or a failure to carry out expert assessment in the planning phase of construction works,” Auditor General Janar Holm noted. “The unexpected can be reduced with good preparatory work.” The audit showed that there were works where, due to insufficient preliminary research, it was discovered during the construction that the designed solution was incompatible with neighbouring properties, or the construction volume had to be increased, as underground structures were discovered, the existence of which came as a surprise.  

The National Audit Office finds that the construction of local roads requires more careful owner supervision in many places. Unfortunately, critical issues in owner supervision contracts were not written down in some local governments or were not detailed enough – for example, the rules of the presence of a supervision engineer, of taking inspection samples of materials, and the management of analysis remained too general. Poor construction documentation, including inadequate recording of construction work meetings, was also a common shortcoming. As a result, it remained unclear why it had been decided to change the original solution during the construction process, or what had necessitated additional work.

The National Audit Office believes that local authorities should be aware of the higher risk areas in road construction and require in their contracts that a supervising engineer is present at all higher risk works and sampling. Furthermore, owner supervision should be required to document the construction process with the obligations imposed on them by the contract in such a way that it is possible to verify what happened during the process. In addition, the representative of the local government should intervene as soon as it is evident that owner supervision does not comply with the requirements imposed on them (incl. in terms of documentation).

“Sometimes, local governments rely too much on the expertise and goodwill of their contract partners as clients,” commented Auditor General Janar Holm. “Therefore, in the contracts, the requirements for the designer, builder, or owner supervision officer remain general, or it is not checked whether these requirements have been met.” The National Audit Office finds that the risk taken in this way may not justify itself. Certain unexpected events are inevitable during construction but if the interests of the local government are weakly protected when they occur, it may happen that the construction will become much more expensive for the local government than originally planned or will be completed significantly later. Construction turned out to be more expensive or overdue in a total of 12 works analysed.

The National Audit Office maintains that better prevention and management of risks does not necessarily require a significant additional cost from the local government, but the recognition of possible emerging obstacles and clear guidelines given to the designer, builder and owner supervision authority and the verification of their fulfilment. In several local governments, reasonable solutions were found in this respect, and, in the opinion of the National Audit Office, their dissemination should be encouraged. For example, the Association of Estonian Cities and Municipalities could draw up standard terms and conditions for both technical specifications of works and contracts, make them available online and keep them updated. 

The National Audit Office considers that the supervision of the Transport Administration over the construction of local roads should focus on larger and more expensive constructions instead of randomly found objects. The Administration started supervising in the second half of 2019 and has inspected around 10-15 sites per year since then. For the most part, objects have been randomly selected from the public procurement register. More than half of the inspections have resulted in the discovery of some deficiency, the most common being an insufficiently thick base layer. In the opinion of the National Audit Office, random selection is not the best way to find control objects. This is precisely in terms of the efficient use of supervisory resources, as large construction sites and areas with heavy traffic have not been inspected.

Background: In 2021, there were about 23 300 km of local roads, of which the majority (77%) were motorways, i.e. roads outside major settlements (cities, towns, small boroughs). However, the traffic load on local roads is largely concentrated in settlements, where half of the streets have a traffic volume of at least 2000 cars per day. Outside settlements, the traffic volume is about 90% on roads under 500 cars per day. In 2019-2021, local governments spent about 170 million euros per year on road maintenance, of which an average of 57% was spent on the construction and repair of roads.

The most important risks of road construction are incomplete source data in the preparation of works and in the preparation of a construction project, errors in the construction project, a construction that does not comply with the project and quality requirements, and a failure to detect construction defects during the warranty period. In the audit, it was analysed how local governments have managed these risks. The local governments audited were Tallinn, the city of Tartu, Lääne-Harju, the city of Rakvere, Kohtla-Järve, Märjamaa, Luunja, Rõuge, Tori, Viimsi. The financial volume of the analysed works ranged from 0.07 to 1.5 million euros.

Priit Simson
Communication Manager of the National Audit Office
+372 640 0102
+372 5615 0280
[email protected]
[email protected]

  • Posted: 4/26/2022 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 4/25/2022 6:41 PM
  • Last Review: 4/25/2022 6:41 PM

The National Audit Office analysed works that have attracted the attention of the public due to quality problems, such as the renovation of Vanemuise Street in the city of Tartu.

Aldo Luud / Õhtuleht

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