Maintenance of roads a big challenge for local governments

The Chairperson of Public Accounts Committee MP Ugyen Tshering

With the objective of economic development, trade, transportation and to improve the livelihood of the people, the government constructed gewog centre (GC) roads, chiwog roads and farm roads.

However, according to the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) findings, the maintenance of these community and village roads became a major challenge overtime.

PAC chairperson, Member of Parliament (MP) Ugyen Tshering, presented the findings and recommendation of the performance audit report on farm road development and management during the joint sitting of the 8th sessions of the 3rd Parliament on 5 December.

MP Ugyen Tshering said the local government (LG) does not have adequate skilled manpower, machineries, and equipment to carry out timely maintenance, resulting in poor condition of GC, chiwog and farm roads.

He addaed that from the Fiscal Year 2019-20, the responsibility for maintenance of GC roads have been delegated from the Department of Roads (DoR) to the local governments with a reduced maintenance budget from Nu 45,000 to Nu 30,000 a kilometer irrespective of the geological conditions.

Besides National Highways (NH) and Secondary National Highways (SNH), he said there is no proper distinction between a farm road, GC road, chiwog road, approach road, and access road among others.

“Some GC roads are being used as connectivity or approach roads to other gewogs. This has caused inconvenience on the territorial boundary as well as availing maintenance budgets,” said the PAC Chairperson said.

The committee during its field visits in Tsirang, Wangdue Phodrang and Punakha Dzongkhag found out that Road User Groups (RUGs) were formed in all three Dzongkhags as per the guideline for farm road development 2019.

MP Ugyen Tshering said the RUGs carry out routine maintenance such as clearing drains, filling potholes, clearing bushes and other minor works. RUGs are operated by signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the RUGs and the gewog administration.

He said that RUGs have a separate maintenance fund which is contributed by the beneficiaries. However, RUGs face challenges in maintaining the farm roads since some of the farm roads are lengthy which renders it difficult for small and sparse settlements to carry out periodic maintenance. He added that some farm roads are used by heavy vehicles and machinery for mining, quarrying and logging purposes who do not contribute to the maintenance of the farm roads.

The PAC recommended that DoR as a national authority needs to review strategic master plans, institutional arrangement, road classification system including GC, chiwog and farm road development. Among others, he suggested inventory management, maintenance, and oversight role in ensuring quality management system of the farm roads in the country in accordance with the Road Act of Bhutan 2013.

Further, he also recommended that the condition of most of the GC roads has deteriorated across the country.

He said, “The LG has not been able to maintain it due to lack of required technical competence and resources. Therefore, PAC recommends that the construction and maintenance of GC roads be taken over by DoR as in the past.”

Further, the DoR being the national authority for all roads in the country, must review the guidelines for farm road development revision 2019 and rationalize the length of the chiwog and farm roads to be maintained by LG and RUGs.