Accountability and the state of Fiji’s bridges

  • 24th October 2012
  • 2012
  • // Display comment count + link

The news that some 30 Fiji bridges need urgent repair works, raise serious questions about accountability considering that in 6 years the regime allocated $220 million on maintenance of roads and bridges.

The authorities are blaming past governments for failing to maintain the bridges. But between 2007 and 2012, national Budgets allocated $220m for maintenance alone. This does not include additional funds that were allocated for upgrading of existing roads and bridges or the construction of new ones.

It is also quite apart from the $7m a year being raised through the Road User Levy.

The taxpayer has a right to ask what has happened to these enormous funds outlaid for the purpose, in view of the pathetic state of our roads today – both urban and rural. And now we hear from the Fiji Roads Authority that close to 30 of our bridges need urgent repair works.

A week ago, two bridges in Suva – on Fletcher Road and the Stinson Parade – were closed to all traffic because they were considered too dangerous to continue in use.

The closure has created traffic jams and caused major inconvenience every day to thousands of motorists and the travelling public.

And now we are told, the bridges will remain closed indefinitely because “they cannot be repaired”.

No further explanations were made about what is being done to construct new bridges, or provide temporary relief, and how much this will cost the taxpayer.

One can also safely assume, based on the regime’s dismal record to date, that public tenders for the construction of new bridges, may well not be called. Instead, an announcement will be made in due course that the contract has been issued to so and so at some enormous cost to the taxpayer. So much for accountability and transparency under the current state of our governance!

The taxpayer will be required to fork out $20m to repair the 30 bridges around Fiji that need urgent repair works, according to Manager Change Mike Rudge of the Fiji Roads Authority.

One is compelled to ask: What happened to the $220 million allocated in the past six years for this purpose?

The Public Works Department is supposed to carry out routine inspections every year on the state of our bridges – reports are prepared and funds allocated accordingly.

If the current Fiji Roads Authority audit on the state of our bridges is correct, then the PWD has a lot to answer for:

• Were the funds used for the purpose they were allocated?

• Or were the funds allocated in the Budget but not actually released considering the desperate cash flow position of the State?

These are questions to which the taxpayer is not likely to get any answers.

Little wonder Transparency International gave Fiji zero out of 100 points in a survey about budget transparency in 2010, with the observation that it is “virtually impossible for Fiji citizens to hold its government accountable for its management of the public’s money”