30 January 2013

Kenya: Why Maintenance of Assets Such As Buildings Is a Must


Of late in the aviation industry, issues with the Boeing 787 Dreamliners have gained great public interest concerning safety. This is perhaps the most advanced passenger aeroplane manufactured by Boeing Aircraft, but a series of safety problems have seen the jets grounded.

This is a case where the highest performance standards expected so as to assure passengers and crew safety are not being realised. Perhaps it has something to do with maintenance, which should address the anomalies, or negligence by one of its sub-contracted parts manufacturers.

Accountants define maintenance as a periodic cost incurred in activities that preserve an asset's operational status without extending its life. Maintenance is an expense that - unlike capital expenditure which extends an asset's life - is not capitalised.

Engineers talk of actions necessary for retaining or restoring a piece of equipment, machine or system to the specified operable condition to achieve its maximum useful life. It includes corrective and preventive maintenance.

Surveyors refer to maintenance as an activity needed or undertaken to conserve as nearly, and as long, as possible the original condition of an asset or resource while compensating for normal wear and tear.

These three professionals are third parties, all looking at an asset from a slightly different angle, they are catalysts.

You and I, as consumers or users, are the second party in the triangle of interests in assets; we just need it in good working order, we have no duty to spend more than the rent we have paid or commute costs. We are not expected to spend a shilling more!

The first party, the asset owners, they have an enduring interest in the asset and are expected to see to its best condition. In many urban settlements across Kenya, you will notice that most assets - built, moveable and immovable - are rundown. You will see buildings that look sick, including hospitals, bars and restaurants!

When the Nairobi Central Business District Association re-introduced public toilets, there was much appreciation by the citizenry; these facilities are of good standards; if only they could maintain it at all times.

Ideally, all public facilities ought to be shut down until all of their components meet set standards; just like the attention being given to the Dreamliners.

It is not just the condition that matters, it is the numbers. Many public buildings have limited number of toilet facilities, and those that do have are unlikely to meet the threshold of toiletries. A particular eye-sore are the toilets at bus parks and petrol stations.

This obvious lack of maintenance leaves one wondering where public health officers are. Who supervises the requirement to ensure all public facilities are fit for use? Do we ever give a thought to maintaining assets, whether buildings, vehicles or others?

Nabutola is Consultant-in-Chief at MyRita Consultants, a knowledge management, research and advisory firm in Nairobi.

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