JKR in search of better strategies for roads

KUCHING: The search for better strategies to Sarawak’s road asset management and maintenance approaches is underway as the long-standing 15-year road maintenance performance-based contract (PBC) between the Public Works Department (JKR) and CMS Roads Sdn Bhd (CMS Roads) draws to an end early next year.

To recap, when JKR’s road maintenance was privatised on 1, 2003, contracts for road maintenance in the state were awarded to four main contractors, most notably, CMS Roads was given a total scope of 4,973.47 state JKR roads to maintain over a period of 15 years.

The award made CMS Roads the first and only holders of road maintenance PBC in and has proven to be successful as the group has managed to exceed its contractual performance at every level for the last 14 years, as reflected in the Road Maintenance Index (RMI) and Contractual Assessment Rating between the two organisations.

Commenting on the situation is Junaidi Sahadan deputy director of JKR’s assets management, who told The Borneo Post that the current trend the government agency is leaning towards, is to opt for another pure PBC contract or a ‘hybrid’ contract.

Junaidi explained that the ‘hybrid’ contract they were considering would still be based on a PBC but with some of the more traditional features found in a task-based contract that would allow JKR to regain more control in road maintenance while alleviating some of the risk the contractor would be subjected to.

“Both options are definitely a better system compared to a traditional purely task based road maintenance contract.”

Agreeing with this view, CMS Road’s Construction and Road Maintenance division head Lim Jit Yaw believed the long-term contract between JKR and CMS roads was an insightful educational experience.

“Both sides have grown a lot, we are very much aware of the fact that we can do better in various areas.

We have much more expectations from each other and if we do proceed into another contract and we will need to work out a better approach to meet both our expectations as we head into the next era of road maintenance,” he said to The Borneo Post.

According to both Junaidi and Lim, CMS is currently reviewing a potential candidate for a new maintenance contract but at this point, there is no commitment yet from JKR’s part to pursue it.

To facilitate discussion on how the next road maintenance contract could be improved, JKR and CMS Roads have co-organised a seminar and workshop entitled ‘Management and Maintenance of Road Assets using Performance-based Contracts’ which kick-started off Wednesday at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) and concluded earlier this week.

The two day event was organised with the intention of examining and discussing the success of our state’s experience with PBC’s and potential improvements to Sarawak’s future road asset and maintenance approaches.

Speakers were invited from Opus International Consultants Ltd (Opus), a multi-disciplinary infrastructure consultancy with extensive experience in road maintenance PBCs to provide further insight to the results and challenges of PBC application,.

Kicking off discussion was Opus asset management work group manager Rowan Kyle.

He believed that the biggest challenge the state faces in continued implementation of road maintenance PBCs is managing the reallocation of operational risks between contractor and JKR and the increase of responsibility from JKR to contractors for more autonomy.

“The biggest impediment to a PBC is not the technical side, after all everyone involved is going to know how to maintain roads, but its dealing with the personnel and the human side of the equation in the change process.

It’s quite a difficult challenge in itself and needs to be carefully thought through and kept in mind all throughout the evolution of the contract.

“Try to impose it unilaterally without care of opposition to it, will often lead to failure in adopting the system, because the ability to change and adapt just doesn’t happen fast enough,” he explained while recommending that there should be continuous maintenance throughout any transition phase to ensure the new system would be adopted.

Delving deeper into the topic of change management, Kyle added that simple but comprehensive measures should also be developed so that proper measurements of a PBC’s performance could done to ensure the main objectives of the PBC could occur.

“I think it’s just recognition that by giving more responsibility over to the contract industry, tied with defined performance measures that positive movement was able to start occurring down the pipeline and into improved asset management spectrum.

“Therefore, just with that reallocation of the risks and responsibilities, people were able to immediately see that better outcomes can be achieved better value for money can be achieved through the process.”

Adding to the discussion is Opus Australian operations asset management team leader Paul Robinson believed that the long period of 15 years was also a key factor in the successful PBC between JKR and CMS.

“The long-term commitment keeps them focused as well because both parties do not lose sight of the fundamentals of the performance contracts which allows them to strive for better results.”

Besides road asset management and maintenance, Kyle adds that there are many more applications for PBCs, especially in local councils.

Lim highlighted that the shift to PBCs would be extremely beneficial to local councils due to increased efficiency.

“What all of us are really looking for is efficiency within out public service, and for that to happen, public services need to be able to move from direct management to outsourced management so councils can focus more on their core objectives and responsibilities.

“The path may be difficult at first as everyone will have to change but the shift will mean higher level of management from the council’s perspective alongside with higher efficiency as well,” he added.

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Source: Borneo Post Online

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