Nova Scotia’s 4,200 bridges need more monitoring: auditor general
HALIFAX—Nova Scotia’s auditor general says the province’s bridges must be improved more quickly and monitored more effectively.
In a audit released May 28, Michael Pickup found the Transportation Department isn’t providing its managers with the information needed to make decisions about replacement, rehabilitation and maintenance of its 4,200 bridges.
The audit found the department is appropriately overseeing whether bridge projects meet standards during construction, but it is failing to properly monitor warranties.
Pickup says the department told his office they typically replace between 15 and 20 bridges a year, with modern bridges having a design life of about 75 years, while older bridges have a design life of 50 years.
Pickup questions the rate of replacement given the resources available to the department.
He says it should choose to reduce the number of bridges requiring replacement “by identifying bridges which are in close proximity to each other to determine if this is the most efficient use of limited resources.”
“These numbers make it clear the department needs to make careful decisions on which bridges should receive attention first.”
The report says there is no process to centrally record work completed on bridges even though the department’s information system is capable of recording maintenance history. He added staff were also not “clearly or consistently” documenting recommended work resulting from their inspections.
“This means there is no centralized, easily accessible, permanent record of repairs recommended from each inspection,” Pickup says.
As a result, the report says department management doesn’t have the criteria to objectively rank and assess projects.
“It creates a risk that management may not identify bridges that are the highest priority for repair and replacement,” the report states.
When it comes to warranty management the report found that 75 per cent of the bridge projects in its test group — nine of 12 — were not inspected at the end of the warranty period, while 23 per cent — 7 of 30 bridges tested — were not inspected as required in 2018-19.
However, Pickup found the department does have an effective process to verify bridge projects meet established quality standards.
Pickup’s report contained figures from the department’s January 2019 draft needs assessment which indicated just over half, 51 per cent of the province’s bridges, are rated in good condition, with 34 per cent considered fair and 618 rated in poor condition.
The auditor general’s report also looked at the province’s Worker’s Compensation Board and found it often takes too long to make decisions on workers’ claims although it adheres to policy.
It also expressed concerns over privacy breaches and other timeliness issues related to the appeals process for claims, “which could continue to cause delays for some injured workers to receive proper benefits.”