AG’s re­port finds sloppy work on crum­bling roads

The Beacon (Gander) - - News - BY JAMES MCLEOD

The prov­ince’s paving sys­tem is a mess - which prob­a­bly isn’t a shock to any­body who has driven on New­found­land and Labrador’s roads - but Au­di­tor Gen­eral Terry Pad­don was scathing and de­tailed in his ex­am­i­na­tion of how the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Works op­er­ates.

Pad­don’s re­port, re­leased Fri­day, de­tails a host of prob­lems with qual­ity, plan­ning and costs as­so­ci­ated with paving roads.

He said this will be his last re­port as au­di­tor gen­eral, as he’s plan­ning to re­tire in Oc­to­ber.

Pad­don found that MHAs’ po­lit­i­cal pri­or­i­ties of­ten over­ride engi­neers’ as­sess­ments of “es­sen­tial” roadwork projects, and de­spite the fact that many paving projects run be­hind sched­ule, con­trac­tors are not pe­nal­ized.

In one case, in the district of then-Tory MHA Ross Wise­man, a paving project was ranked as 194th on a list of 198 projects, and yet for some rea­son it was done.

“This could mean that roads with lower safety risks were ad­dressed be­fore roads with greater safety risks,” the re­port said.

“MHA pri­or­i­ties made up 46 per cent of the 2015-16 pro­vin­cial roads im­prove­ment bud­get, while es­sen­tial projects made up only 23 per cent.”

More­over, when it comes to qual­ity, Pad­don found that be­tween 2002 and 2008 there was very lit­tle use of “tack coat” on pave­ment, which in­creased the risk of de­fects with the as­phalt.

There were very few pos­i­tive mes­sages in the re­port, iden­ti­fy­ing glar­ing gaps and sloppy pro­cesses.

“The Depart­ment had main­te­nance guide­lines that were out of date and were not be­ing used,” the re­port states. “The win­ter main­te­nance sec­tion of the man­ual was never com­pleted, and the man­ual it­self had not been up­dated since its cre­ation in 1995.”

When it came to po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence, Pad­don found a sit­u­a­tion on the Bay d’Espoir high­way where only half the road was paved, de­spite the fact that the whole road was in equally bad shape, be­cause it ran across two dif­fer­ent elec­toral dis­tricts.

And in a lot of cases, con­trac­tors got off easy.

“Con­trac­tors were fre­quently graded higher on their per­for­mance eval­u­a­tions than they should have,” the re­port said.

“Ac­tual ex­pen­di­tures for about half of the projects ex­am­ined sur­passed the orig­i­nal ten­der. In one case the cost ex­ceeded the orig­i­nal ten­der by $1.15 mil­lion with­out an ap­proved change or­der.”

Pad­don’s most se­ri­ous rec­om­men­da­tion was to es­tab­lish some sort of pave­ment man­age­ment sys­tem to clearly track how as­phalt is ag­ing, and what roadwork needs to be done, and on that front, Trans­porta­tion and Works Min­is­ter Al Hawkins said he’s al­ready on it.

“We’re cer­tainly work­ing on that, and mak­ing sure that you have bet­ter mea­sures in place so we can ef­fec­tively look at ar­eas that we have con­cern.”

In the case of the con­trac­tor that got paid an ex­tra $1.15 mil­lion, Hawkins said he be­lieves it hap­pened some­where around Cor­ner Brook, and he’s look­ing into the de­tails.

“I’m not sure of the specifics of the con­tract.”

TELE­GRAM FILE PHOTO

The lat­est au­di­tor gen­eral’s re­port has blasted the pro­vin­cial govern­ment’s han­dling of paving and main­tain­ing New­found­land and Labradors roads.

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