A fresh report from the National Audit Office exposes road construction as an industry rife with bad money management and sloppy work.
With the help of Finnish experts, auditors investigated road construction and the activities of the respective public agency, the Road Administration, between 2002 and 2012.
One conclusion was that around 50 percent of planned works were completed from 2010-2013. A major reason was that most projects ended up costing considerably more than expected - usually by around 50 percent at most, but it was not uncommon for costs to double.
Another major problem is poor building standards and an abundance of errors. The report said the main national roads generally meet standards and the necessary strength is usually guaranteed. But roads are deteriorating much too quickly and experts said Estonia needs to adopt Nordic design standards. And rarely has anyone ever been held responsible for the errors.
Other problems are institutional. When approached, the Road Administration found it difficult to present comprehensive data on projects. In one instance, after claiming that the total amount spent on repairs from 2008-2012 was 220 million euros, auditors found that the actual amount was over 100 million euros more.
Tarmo Olgo, auditor director with the performance audit department, said: “Since the increase in European Union grants in the last ten-odd years, the Road Administration has been working under considerable time pressure where the goal set at the level of the state is to use these huge amounts of money as quickly as possible. On the other hand, there have been big problems in the management of the Road Administration itself, reforming the agency’s internal structure and so on. It is important to leave the ‘act first, think later’ stage and progress to a situation where the condition of Estonian roads is analysed on the basis of a comprehensive picture and reliable data, and clear choices are made for the benefit of the future.”
The National Audit Office also considers it a problem that the government has replaced tax revenues to a significant extent with European Union support. This has not helped accelerate the renovation of roads, the report said.