Road has been the most dominate transport mode in Ethiopia for ages .It has been playing crucial role in facilitating import and export trade as well. Currently, the road length at national level is approximately about 110,000 Kms. Considering the economic value of the roads, timely maintenance is vital.
During the late 1990s, the Ethiopian road fund was established under the proclamation number 66/88 with a view to carrying out road maintenance nationwide. Since then, it has been diligently fulfilling its responsibilities.
Alebachew Ahmed is working for the Ethiopian Road fund Authority. He is a team leader of technique, follow up and supervision.
He said as road is a bloodline of given economy, it needs periodical maintenance. "If roads are not renovated in a timely manner, they will be out of use for some time . This will critically hurt the economy."
In Ethiopia, there are about 71 institutions engaged in road maintenance all over the country.
Before awarding road maintenance bid to contractors, the Ethiopian Road Fund Authority evaluate the status of the road, the traffic volume and its cost critically. e In addition, the status of the road will be surveyed via conducting series of field visits .
Afterwards, the road maintenance proposal will be scrutinized .When the proposal is approved, the maintenance work will begin. After completion of the maintenance, the contractors will be paid.
Pertinent bodies in states, road agencies and municipalities have a mandate to announce the bid for road maintenance. The Road Fund Authority has no role in this regard.
According to Alebachew, there are three types of road maintenance namely routine, periodic and emergency maintenance. The last one is usually carried out when the road is damaged during the rainy season.
He said new gravel road need to get routine maintenance within three years and the new asphalt road also between five and eight years.
Routine maintenance can be carried out annually because it is an ordinary practice. However, periodic maintenance will take place after a long period of road service and it also needs high technology and skilled man power. Plus, the cost is expensive.
Sofi Belete is an engineer who has a private consultant company. She said road is a base for economic development. "Unless it gets recurrent maintenance, it will be out of use. Therefore, to prolong the span of the roads, mobilizing fund for maintenance from various sources is vital."
Such endeavor could draw support from the various international organizations such as the United Nations and the African Union.
Most countries mobilize finance from fuel tax and trans-boarder vehicles because governments are often not capable enough to allocate finance to road maintenance using capital budgets.
She noted effective and durable road construction needs well qualified person to oversee the construction progress. Unfortunately, in many countries due to lack of such professionals, the roads are poorly constructed and their average life span is shortened. Hence, countries need to do a lot in this end.
Because of various reasons, a large number of road construction are delayed and the most acute ones are exposed to change design as well. The lack of transparent bidding system also has a negative impact on roads' durability. In this regard, Sofi noted that if the road construction is not properly supervised at its early stages ,the construction work will not be successful and its duration became doubtful and such situation again incurs countries additional maintenance cost.
As to Sofi, in developed countries, one company will be responsible for road design , construction and supervision for 20 or 30 years . By doing so ,the company will develop credibility in doing the job and the outcome will be excellent and encouraging. But it requires huge amount of money but in Africa such practice is uncommon.
She also said her company has developed an IT based new system which enables to do cost effective construction work. It has various models helpful to monitor and control the road project work and applied from the project bid to its completion. Among others, it monitors the bid ,the estimate cost and the actual cost and others. The system in addition to saving unnecessary waste of time and expense , it creates transparency.
According to Alebachew, the objective of the establishment of the road fund and the authority is mainly to address the huge backlog of road maintenance. Plus, it has a duty of soliciting road maintenance fund and correcting inefficient institutional arrangements, particularly ownership, management, financing and responsibility on roads. Its primary mandate is to manage funds generate from fuel levies and other tariffs. In addition to the effectiveness of road maintenance, it works on capacity building of the road agencies.