Why Do We Really Need The Fiji Roads Authority?

John Ross is  a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in tourism. For feedback on this article, please email him: johnrossfiji@gmail.comh   Three years ago the government
08 Apr 2017 11:00
Why Do We Really Need The Fiji Roads Authority?

John Ross is  a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in tourism. For feedback on this article, please email him: johnrossfiji@gmail.comh


Three years ago the government announced that a new entity, the Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) was to be formed and empowered as the custodian of all the roads, jetties and bridges in Fiji. At the time this represented a radical departure from the existing structure where there were a number of different groups with responsibilities divided up by type of infrastructure, location and ownership of the assets.

This led to much duplication, varying levels of expertise and quality of work and general confusion. When the FRA came into being, there was much speculation about the potential value of the new concept and complaints from those who had lost out in the change, particularly from those who had enjoyed an easy life in the past.

The government was serious in making sure that the objectives set for the FRA could be met and provided the levels of funding that would be needed to ensure that their ambitious plans were achieved and the revisions to various legislation that would allow FRA to move forward without too much delay.

FRA moved forward quickly. They set up their own structure, appointed a number of companies to handle different aspects of the operations and developed a set of guidelines for those companies to follow in all FRA business.

The guidelines were demanding and would require the highest levels of professionalism to deliver to specification, issues that had not been included in the past in contracts for this sort of work. First and foremost were the requirements of accountability, which specified that each organisation was directly responsible for the standard of work they undertook.

That included the requirement that each contractor rectify any work that was not to standard at their cost. They could require the same accountability of the suppliers of material, but they had to ultimately take the financial responsibility.

While this is a very hardnosed requirement, it is ultimately the only way to ensure that contracts are fulfilled in the right manner to the right standard. There was no room to side step the responsibility and it deterred a number of contractors from tendering.


 FRA projects

FRA announced a number of major projects and contracted with a number of organisations to deliver to promises. And what they were talking about was, for Fiji, quite radical. The roads have to be built for a specific service life.  Radical stuff. In the past we saw examples of road building where the first section had started to break up before the last section was even complete.

That is why Fiji came to a point where we were losing the battle to keep a good, reliable and economical road system. It is the only way we can protect the asset and create the spread of good roads capable of handling modern transport demands right across the country. Even the most experienced contractors have issues occasionally.


Building a road

Building a road requires the input of a wide range of skills from different people and the use of a wide range of materials such as gravel, fill, geotechnical advice, civil engineering, various types of seals and concrete fittings, drainage and many other pieces of the puzzle.        At any time any one of these can fail, and although continuous tests are carried out on material, some faulty or substandard items will sneak through. In the past, that would be left but now FRSA requires that it be rectified.

This placed a high level of accountability on materials suppliers, who in previous years didn’t have to worry about the performance and longevity of the material they were supplying, any failure was shelved back to the construction contractor and they never had to face the questions.

In fact, in the old days not even the construction contractor had to face the issue of a failed product, they often even got the contract to rectify the problem they had created.

With the change in attitude of the body responsible for all transport infrastructure a new level of quality has been injected by all the different companies, groups and individuals involved in the industry and the results show the benefit.

This is not to say that failures do not occur but they are  certainly happening at a significantly lower frequency and they are all rectified at the expense of the people involved, not the government and ultimately the taxpayer. And that is good news for Fiji.


 Does this new world standard involve a higher cost of construction?

Yes, it does, but it is not a very big percentage. And certainly the difference now between the funds used to rectify problems related to construction mistakes and material failures are vastly lower than in the past.

An unmeasurable additional saving is the stress and vehicle damage that the structural failures of the past placed on the users of the roads and bridges. Unfortunately, we still suffer in this area from the way the past work was done, but eventually all the faults will be rectified and, with the planned maintenance program and the stringent continuous inspections FRA has made a part of the overall operations.

People have started to complain now about small things, mainly potholes. The problem here is that they appear in old work that has either not been properly constructed in the first place or has seal badly worn.

FRA has a fast repair program for potholes, but after a spell of bad weather the incidence of potholes increases dramatically and it is an unfortunate truth that potholes do tend to break up.

The only real answer is to get Fiji’s entire road infrastructure up to standard. With Fiji’s marked wet weather season of December to March, where half the annual rainfall occurs every year, the issue of potholes becomes great. Rain is the predominant cause of the breakup of the road surface which leads to potholes, and there is a definite “Pothole season” in Fiji which stretches the resources of the best organised of companies.

A second issue is that the materials currently being used to repair the damage leave a lot to be decided and FRA are currently experimenting with a number of potential solutions and are hopeful they can find a new answer.   To answer the question, we do need FRA. We definitely need the organisation to both set the standard and then ensure the standard is met. Only in this way can Fiji get a road system of world class and keep it as such.

The Authority has a continuous monitoring program designed to identify issues before they become serious. In future you can be assured that the government funds committed to roads is being used in the most cost effective way consistent with the maintenance of internationally accepted standards.

Got A News Tip

Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.

By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.

For All Fiji Sun Advertising
Fijisun E-edition