Lack of maintenance of state infrastructure; a major cost to the state

June 10, 2024
Lack of maintenance of state infrastructure; a major cost to the state

Maintenance as a service, is vital for every type of infrastructural facility. Such facilities spread across projects in several sectors of the national economy including agriculture, health, education, commerce, industry, energy, environment and defence. The spread also extends to social sectors such as roads, water supply, housing, electricity and telecommunication.

It is noteworthy that such projects have implications for regular maintenance for sustainability. Infrastructures are the nation's most valuable assets, providing people with shelter and facilities for work and leisure. However, maintenance has been a neglected segment. Maintenance starts the day the contractor leaves the site, having completed the project.

The design, material specification, construction including workmanship, function and use will determine the amount of maintenance required during the lifetime of an infrastructure. The principal objective of infrastructural maintenance is the upkeep of the infrastructure for continuous and reliable use. The wear and tear arising from use or misuse, weathering and other agencies must be anticipated and appropriate measures put in place to adequately take care of them.

Many developing countries rely on investment-to-GDP metrics as a sign of progress towards their development goals. Unfortunately, too often the focus on investment pushes aside the issues of adequately maintaining existing infrastructure. The results could be disastrous to human lives, health and well-being.

Lack of maintenance of existing infrastructure is a well-known problem, not only in developing economies but also in some developed countries. However, how much the government should plan to spend on maintenance over the lifetime of infrastructure assets is neither a simple nor straightforward question.

WHAT IS INFRASTRUCTURE

Infrastructure is the set of facilities and systems that serve a country, city or other area and encompasses the services and facilities necessary for its economy, households and firms to function. Infrastructure is composed of public and private physical structures such as roads, railways, bridges, tunnels, water supply, servers, and telecommunications (including internet connectivity and broadband access).

In other words, infrastructure is the physical components of interrelated systems providing commodities and services essential to enable, sustain or enhance societal living condition and maintain the surrounding environment ( Source: Market Business News – MBN & Collins Dictionary).

BENEFITS OF INFRASTRUCTURE

Every economy needs reliable infrastructure to connect supply chains and efficiently move goods and services across borders. Infrastructure is no doubt the backbone of a healthy economy due to the considerable benefits it presents as detailed below:

  1. FACILITATES ECONOMY'S OPERATION

The presence of infrastructure facilities is necessary for the effective functioning of an economy. Infrastructure facilities are critical for the development of the agricultural industry and service sectors.

  1. DEVELOPMENT OF AGRICULTURE

The development of modern agriculture is dependent on the availability of infrastructure for the rapid and large-scale transportation of seeds, herbicides, fertilizers and other agricultural inputs. Additionally, in order for agriculture to function on a large scale, banking and insurance institutions are required.

  1. INVESTMENT IS STIMULATED BY INFRASTRUCTURE

Investment is promoted by infrastructure. For instance, a well-developed transportation system would undoubtedly encourage investment in all economic sectors since it enables effective transportation of products and services across the different areas of the nation. Infrastructure is often viewed as the wheel of economic activity since it provides the environment for productive activities to take place and facilitates the generation of growth. In truth, the foundation of commercial investment is infrastructure.

  1. INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVES PRODUCTIVITY

Social infrastructure includes institutions for learning and healthcare. These organizations provide healthcare, skill development and education which are necessary conditions to improve productivity. This implies increase in efficiency and as a result an increase in productivity and acceleration in the growing process. It also connects households across metropolitan areas to higher quality opportunities for employment, healthcare and education.

  1. CREATES JOB OPPPRTUNITIES

Infrastructure has role in job creation. Many people find work in infrastructure projects from locomotive engineers, electric power installers, truck drivers, airline pilots, labourers to meter readers. Infrastructure jobs account for greater percentage of a nation's workforce. It enables trade, powers business, connects workers to their jobs, create opportunities for struggling communities and protects the nation from an increasingly unpredictable natural environment.

  1. ENABLES OUTSOURCING

A nation that has developed infrastructure can profit from work that is outsourced. Due to its strong infrastructure and IT support system, is becoming popular location for business process outsourcing( BPOs), key performance objectives( KPOs), Call centres, and other similar businesses.

  1. BETTER LIVING QUALITY

Better life quality is a result of well-developed infrastructure. The morbidity from major waterborne diseases and the severity of the sickness are both significantly decreased by improvements in water supply and sanitation. Access to healthcare depends on the state of the transportation and communication networks. However, air-pollution and transportation-related safety risks might have an impact on morbidity, especially in densely populated areas.

Morbidity rate is the propensity to fall ill. This may affect the workers productivity. Besides, in densely populated areas, activities like air pollution, safety hazards connected to transportation affect morbidity.

  1.  ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Infrastructure development and economic development are interlinked. Infrastructure helps in contributing to the economic development of a country by increasing the productivity of factors of production and by improving the quality of life of the people. Whilst the creation and extension of irrigation infrastructure are essential for agriculture, the growth of power/ electricity generations, transportation and communication is necessary for the advance of industries.

Infrastructural growth and the National Income of an economy have a positive correlation between them. Infrastructure acts as a support system for an economy facilitating greater productive activities, improvement of quality of life and a higher level of income or output in an economy.

WHAT IS MAINTENANCE

Maintenance refers to the process of preserving, sustaining and repairing something to keep it in good condition or to restore it to a state of efficiency and proper functioning. This can apply to various things such as infrastructure, machinery, software or even personal health. Maintenance involves conducting routine checks, inspections or up keeping to ensure the longevity and reliability of the object or system in question (Source: Quora).

OBJECTIVE OF MAINTENANCE

The goal of maintenance is to make repairs unnecessary (Source: Safety Culture). All infrastructure assets are subject to gradual wear or aging. This depreciation in the value of the asset occurs at varying speed, depending on its nature. Maintenance is needed to mitigate the effects of aging and offset the loss in asset value associated with it.

Without maintenance, infrastructure will go into decline leading to poorer outputs and outcomes over time. Furthermore, maintenance is performed to ensure a safe working environment. Broken assets can lead to potential hazards that can, directly and indirectly, harm you and your workers, and sometimes even customers. In extreme case, equipment failure can lead to accidents that cause injuries or fatalities.

Public infrastructure assets are a foundation of a country's economic development therefore, maintaining such assets in good condition is very critical. Neglected infrastructure will result in degradation of the assets with negative effects on the economy, leading to greater costs of reconstruction overtime.

TYPES OF MAINTENANCE

Maintenance is an important part of keeping any equipment, asset or system running smoothly. There are many types of maintenance However, it is important to choose the right one to help maintenance teams to minimize cost. Below are some of the relevant types of maintenance that can be considered:-

  1. PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE

This is scheduled maintenance that is performed to prevent equipment or asset from failing. This type of maintenance is typically performed on a regular basis, such as monthly or annually. Preventive maintenance can help extend the life of an asset or infrastructure and reduce the risk of unplanned downtime.

  1. CORRECTIVE MAINTENANCE

Corrective maintenance is performed to repair or replace equipment that has already failed. This type of maintenance is typically unplanned and can be costly. Corrective maintenance can help to restore equipment to its normal operating condition, but it does not address the root cause of the failure.

  1. PREDICTIVE MAINTENANCE

This is a type of maintenance that uses data and analytics to predict when equipment is likely to fail. This type of maintenance can help prevent unplanned downtime and reduce the cost of maintenance. Predictive maintenance uses sensors and other monitoring devices to collect data about the equipment's condition. This data is then analyzed by software to identify patterns that indicate that the equipment is likely to fail.

  1. CONDITION-BASED MAINTENANCE

This is sometimes considered to be a more advanced alternative to preventive maintenance. Rather than being inspected according to a schedule, machines and systems are carefully observed for changes that could indicate upcoming failure. With condition-based maintenance, technicians observed the system running and identify variables that could affect functioning, like temperature, vibration speed, power, the presence or absence of moisture and more. Another strategy within condition-based maintenance is predictive maintenance.

  1. ROUTINE MAINTENANCE

It involves regular, planned tasks aimed at identifying and preventing potential issues. It is generally performed as part of ongoing maintenance procedures and does not typically require specialized training or equipment. For instance, the daily safety checklists completed by machine operators are a form of routine maintenance.

WHY MAINTENANCE OF INFRASTRUCTURE OFTEN NEGLECTED

The maintenance of public infrastructure involves major issues from economic attractiveness to user safety issues not to mention the logistical organization involved. The failure to maintain infrastructure may be as a result of the following:-

POLITICAL ECONOMY REASONS

  • Governments will opt for ribbon cutting rather than maintaining existing assets with the widespread perception that the former will draw more votes than the latter.
  • Inefficient forms of awarding infrastructure contracts.
  • Low political appeal for maintenance verses new projects.
  • Failure to invest in infrastructure. Inadequate levels of public expenditure for routine and periodic maintenance of infrastructure networks, especially in power, water, sanitation and transport.

FISCAL REASONS

  • Budget funding for operations and maintenance is prone to be cut when fiscal space is limited, in favour of non-discretionary spending.
  • The overall budgetary pressure on the public sector, often leads to sacrificing public infrastructure maintenance in order to allocate resources to the wage bill and unavailable current expenditure. 

INSTITUTIONAL REASONS

In many countries, separate agencies still prepare investment and current expenditure budgets ( routine maintenance being included in the latter and capital maintenance in the former) without an integrated medium-term perspective, leading to a mismatch overtime between infrastructure assets and the need for their operation or maintenance.

CAPACITY REASONS

  • Up-to-date information on the state of assets may not be readily available particularly in low-income countries and the measurement of maintenance needs is difficult because of lack of standard methodologies and the slow effects of asset depreciation may not be immediately visible.
  • The deterioration in the physical infrastructure has been accompanied by lack of progress in building institutional capacities for management and regulation of the basic services associated with those networks. Problems in this area stem from a disjoined approach to regulation and oversight among the ministries responsible for these sectors, compounded by a substantial loss of skills in the public workforce.

SIGNIFICANCE OF INFRASTRUCTURE MAINTENANCE

Infrastructure maintenance is of utmost importance for the following reasons:-

  1. SIGNIFICANCE TO NATIONAL ECONOMY
  • An efficient system of infrastructure is fundamental to the well-being of a nation and indispensable for productivity and growth of commerce, industry and agriculture. As infrastructure accumulates, quality of life is improved through increased health protection, convenience, facilitated communication and reduced cost of goods. Infrastructure facilities for water supply, sanitation, drainage, solid waste management etc. are crucial for preventing communicable diseases and providing services for industrial and commercial operations.
  • Likewise, the movement of labour, materials and products relies on a good transportation network to minimize delays, reduce transport costs and elevate productivity. Productivity is also increased by reducing vehicle trips through a well-maintained telecommunication network.
  • The maintenance of urban infrastructure, in particular, has a remarkable influence on a country's economic productivity. Cities and towns absorb the largest proportion of infrastructural capital investments and make vital contributions to economic growth. Globally, the more urbanized a country is, the greater its economic productivity. Even agricultural modernization and productivity depend increasingly upon an efficient urbanizing process to provide markets, processing facilities, goods and services.
  • Infrastructural assets that are allowed to deteriorate represent an enormous drain on national wealth and cause serious undermining of the development process. The financial consequences of neglecting maintenance is often only seen in terms of reduced asset life and premature asset replacement expenses. In countries like , where roads accidents kill more people than common communicable diseases, the maintenance-related savings on medical expenses alone could prove significant.
  • The postponement of regular maintenance work ultimately makes undue demands on national economies to restore facilities. Savings from postponed maintenance are deceptive, since investments required to rehabilitate neglected facilities compound with time. Delays in conducting rehabilitation works eventually lead to the need for total replacement of assets. An example of the cumulative cost implications of neglecting maintenance is illustrated in the road sector. In other words, the utility value of investment in maintenance is greater than that for new construction.
  • Furthermore, maintenance has considerable impact on the economy through job opportunities that it creates. The magnitude of employment created depend on the nature of infrastructure and extent of labour intensive maintenance technique adopted.
  1. QUALITY OF LIFE

Infrastructure maintenance has a direct impact on the quality of life for individuals. Well-kept roads and highways alleviate traffic congestion, reduce travel times and improve commuting experiences. Properly functioning utilities, including water supply, sanitation systems and telecommunications contribute to healthier and more comfortable living conditions. Moreover, maintaining public spaces, such as parks, recreational facilities and community centres enriches leisure opportunities and fosters cohesion.

  1. PRESERVATION OF ASSETS

Infrastructure assets represent significant investments made by governments and private entities. Regular maintenance endeavors to preserve and extend the life span of these assets. By promptly identifying and addressing issues, maintenance activities prevent minor problems from escalating into major ones, thereby minimizing the need for costly repairs or replacements in the long run. This prudent approach promotes cost-effectiveness and efficient resource utilization.

  1. ENVIROMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Infrastructure maintenance contribute to environmental sustainability by proactively addressing issues such as leaks, cracks, or outdated systems. These efforts minimize resource wastage and mitigate environmental impacts. For instance, maintaining efficient transportation systems aids in reducing fuel consumption and air pollution, while optimizing water infrastructure conserves this valuable resource by minimizing water loss.

  1. RESILIENCE AND PREPAREDNESS

Regular infrastructure maintenance enhances societal resilience and preparedness for unforeseen events. Natural disasters, extreme weather, events or emergencies can cause substantial damage to infrastructure. However, a well-maintained system is better equipped to withstand such events or recover more swiftly, thus minimizing the impact on society and facilitating the restoration of essential services.

  1. TECHNICAL SIGNIFICANCE
  • Many technical reasons indicate the value of maintenance. Infrastructure is often perceived as beginning and ending with the planning and execution of projects for physical facilities. Consequently, maintenance is given little emphasis, causing facilities to operate below their intended capacity and thereby, not making cost-effective use of them. For example, traffic congestion in most cities results more from poor utilization of road space and inadequate maintenance than from capacity deficiency.
  • Knowledge of maintenance needs is important for promoting infrastructural operational efficiency and can serve as an input to management decision-making. Accurate figures on infrastructure-productions, service, consumption and maintenance-demand patterns are essential in planning new investments. Where maintenance is given little attention, this information might not be available and decisions about the capacity of new works, types of equipment and timing of new investments will be based on conjecture. This will inevitably result in sub-optimal utilization of investment resources. Maintenance records provide useful feedback for both management and technical-design decision-making.
  • Most infrastructure elements interacts with others in such a way that failure to maintain one can adversely affect the operation of another. For example, failure to maintain the telecommunication system will result in increasing the number of vehicle trips, which could increase traffic and lead to road congestion.
  • Where little or no maintenance is undertaken or where maintenance is conducted on an adhoc basis, the fund devoted to maintenance efforts might not be utilized optimally. Only where sustained programmes of planned maintenance are in place, would information gathered to ensure cost-effective investments in maintenance.

HOW TO OVERCOME INFRASTRUCTURE MAINTENANCE CHALLENGES

To ensure and improve upon effective infrastructure maintenance system, it is imperative to give much attention to the following factors:-

  • In principle, as a project is developed, the cost of maintenance is projected over its life style. If the infrastructure is maintained accordingly, its life span may even exceed the projections. At the time the project is conceived, a schedule of maintenance expenditure should also be planned and integrated into the analysis.
  • The next important tool is the infrastructure assets management system, which utilities can use to better manage their operations. Such a system includes an inventory of all assets and their conditions as well as the strategic, financial and technical aspects of the management of infrastructure assets across their life cycle.
  • A combination of routine maintenance ( eg. annual frequency) with periodic maintenance (eg. every 5 years) will allow for an extended life time of an infrastructure, but also a better and more constant performance level over time.
  • Infrastructure maintenance system focus on each asset, independent of the system in which it functions. The system includes how much asset cost, who is responsible for maintaining them, their condition and functionality, assessment of potential maintenance intervention scenarios and when they require rehabilitation.
  • Improve budget preparation through better data on infrastructure assets, scope and cost of work to be completed. Forward looking budget estimates can help improve planning for maintenance but must be based on sound inputs from line departments.
  • Governments should consider earmarking revenue for the management of assets in certain infrastructure sectors, subject to stringent conditions.
  • Ensure that user fees are adequate to cover routine maintenance as well as the operation of the infrastructure and its replacement, when combined with formal government subsidies.

CONCLUSION

In summary, infrastructure maintenance plays a pivotal role in ensuring the safety, functionality and longevity of critical systems that support societies. Governments, organizations and communities can promote sustainable development, economic prosperity and an improved quality of life for their citizens by investing in regular maintenance endeavors.

The maintenance of infrastructural facilities requires attention at the highest level. This attention is of basic importance of which the objective must be to keep infrastructural facilities to acceptable standard in order to make them functional and reliable.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ROBERT OWUSU, FCIB – is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers (Ghana). A seasoned banker with wide experience in Retail Banking, Internal Auditing, Project Management, Electronic Banking with high specialty in Internet Banking. He is also a Consultant and a Supervisor of Chartered Institute of Bankers (Ghana) examination.

CONTACT

E-mail address:  kwa [email protected]; Tel. 0240 821597 & 0546 907904

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