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Auditor General finds VicRoads can improve aspects of road maintenance

VicRoads should improve its public performance indicators to better inform the state government about the underlying condition of roads, according to a report by Victoria’s Acting Auditor General.

Dr Peter Frost said in the audit report tabled in the Victorian Parliament that enhancing the performance indicators would help to better inform the government’s funding decisions on the maintenance of road infrastructure.

The audit focused on the maintenance of about 19,000 kms of freeways and arterial roads outside Victoria’s major cities and regional towns. It found that overall, VicRoads’ management of the regional roads maintenance was adequately planned and delivered, and regularly evaluated.

The audit found, however, that VicRoads needed to improve its performance in contracting and delivering maintenance activities and upgrading information systems to facilitate more effective asset maintenance.

It said road maintenance contracts were difficult and costly for VicRoads to manage and provided examples of where contracts demonstrated significant performance shortcomings.

“VicRoads faces a challenge to link and analyse all the information needed to guide maintenance decisions,” the report said. “Currently, information is stored in a way that prevents holistic analysis.”

The report said, for example, that VicRoads regions used the customer enquiry system to track individual inquiries from the public, but could not use the information to identify trends and recurring problems.

The report found the condition and performance of regional road infrastructure had deteriorated in recent years and the trend was likely to continue. It said maintenance had been under-funded by about $37 million a year for the past nine years and there was a backlog of roads which were in “urgent distress”.

VicRoads, according to the Auditor General, had made changes to improve the efficiency of road maintenance programs, but the gains had not redressed the gap in upgrading roads to any significant degree. Dr Frost said a substantial increase in maintenance funding was required to regain and sustain target levels of service.

The report said that on a positive note, VicRoads’ current bids for road capital funding included an accompanying bid to meet the maintenance needs of new or upgraded assets.

“This should become standard practice. In addition, VicRoads should enhance its public performance indicators to better inform government about the underlying condition of the road infrastructure. This will help to inform the government’s funding decisions on the maintenance of the road infrastructure.”

Victorian Roads and Ports Minister, Tim Pallas, said the audit was, overall, a positive report for VicRoads management of regional roads maintenance. He said VicRoads had agreed to adopt all recommendations made by Dr Frost regarding the delivery and implementation of maintenance contracts.

Mr Pallas said the positive rating was a great achievement, particularly given that VicRoads currently maintained nearly $19 billion of road assets.

The Auditor General’s report can be found http://download.audit.vic.

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