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Detailed designs are crucial to ensuring reliable cost estimates and minimizing implementation delays.

The absence of detailed engineering designs precluded a thorough examination of the actual site conditions prior to project start-up, because of which certain weaknesses during project preparation were carried over to the implementation stage. Key of these weaknesses were an underestimation of the cost of mobilizing in a remote area and a failure to detect undocumented underground installations that posed a serious health and safety risk in the worksite. The remedial measures that were undertaken to address these weaknesses accounted for the biggest chunk in project cost overruns and delays which, including the additional works and delays due to disastrous weather events and other factors, more than doubled the total project cost estimate and implementation timeframe set at appraisal. To avoid a repeat of this experience, ADB should not allow project start-up without detailed designs and ensure that consultants comply with their contractual obligations.

Additional costs and risks associated with undertaking large infrastructure projects in remote locations must be factored into the civil works contract price and procurement process.

Two upward price adjustments were made on the single works contract, which ended with the project allocation still about 16% below the $48.2 million final contract price. Bid evaluation showed that the prices were high mainly because of the high cost and perceived higher risk of mobilizing in such a remote location. For instance, aggregates cost higher as they must be transported from Fiji, some 2,000 kilometers away. For future similar projects, it would be advisable to incorporate into the cost calculations during project preparation the higher costs and risks associated with undertaking large infrastructure projects in remote, isolated locations. This would minimize the need for contract price variations and lessen the snags in the procurement process which, in this project, had to be shifted to regular post-qualification 9 months after prequalification had failed to attract qualified contractors.

Timely and sustained provision of technical support can substantially improve project management and implementation capacities.

The placement of a technical advisor within the implementing agency greatly helped reduce government difficulties in managing the design and supervision consultant team. The actual presence of the cofinanciers in the project site─through the in-country joint ADB–World Bank Liaison Office and the Australian High Commission─further ensured that cofinanciers were able to provide implementation support when needed. While not entirely new, this project highlighted some of the key ways cofinanciers can effectively provide timely and sustained support to projects in remote locations.

Development partners should not overburden government capacity when programming and should be ready to adjust, if necessary.

Government capacity was overstretched in Kiribati in 2014 as the number of development partner−financed projects had doubled since 2012. Under this scenario, development partners should consider incorporating into the project design the provision of additional project management services. It would be best if they could coordinate and harmonize their programming. They should also be ready to revisit priorities and reschedule proposed development projects if necessary.

Background

Kiribati is one of the most remote countries in the world. It consists of 33 small coral islands, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean. It has only one main road connecting the eastern and western islands. This main road runs the length of the extremely narrow and densely populated South Tarawa atoll. Passing through the administrative capital of Bairiki, it connects two of the main gateways to the country, the Bonriki international airport in the east and the Betio seaport in the west.

For many years until 2016, the South Tarawa road was in extremely poor condition. Lack of routine maintenance had turned formerly paved sections into a pitted gravel surface. Prolonged wet weather and ever-heavier traffic volumes had accelerated the deterioration of the road which, except for a few repairs in 2008, had not been rehabilitated since the 1970s.

The very poor condition of the road profoundly affected the lives of South Tarawa’s more than 50,000 people. Average travel speed was reduced to 20 kilometers per hour. Travel was difficult and dangerous, especially after the rains, as vehicles were forced to navigate large and deep depressions filled with water. In the dry season, excessive dust would collect along the road, significantly contributing to the incidence of upper respiratory illnesses.

To address the situation directly affecting 42% of the country’s population in 2010, the Government of Kiribati requested the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to help finance the Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project. In response, ADB provided a loan of $12 million and two grants worth $11.4 million, all from the ADB-administered Asian Development Fund.

Despite serious challenges, the project succeeded in achieving its intended outputs, in many ways, exceeding targets. It rehabilitated 38.4 kilometers of paved roads and 9.2 kilometers of feeder roads and dramatically improved the safety and serviceability of these roads by putting in place sturdier seawalls, concrete u-drains, and several features new to Kiribati, including well- demarcated footpaths, clearly marked speed humps, street lights, and pull-off bays. It also enhanced the sustainability of these roads and helped address the country’s need for an enabling framework to better manage its road assets by supporting the training of local subcontractors in routine maintenance and the preparation of a detailed routine maintenance manual, a road safety action plan, and a road safety legislation.

Successful completion of the project has provided South Tarawa’s people a safer, more efficient road network, improving their access to vital infrastructure and essential goods and services. Early beneficial impacts have also included increased economic activity along the roadside, with many new small stores and eateries now established.

The project was cofinanced by the Government of Australia, the Government of Kiribati, and the World Bank. From an estimated $33.36 million during appraisal, the actual total project cost reached $74.97 million. Project completion was pushed back thrice, from 30 April 2013 to 28 November 2016. Kiribati’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Sustainable Energy was the implementing agency and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development the executing agency.

Project Information
Project Name: 
Road Rehabilitation Project
Report Date: 
July, 2018
Main Sector: 
Country: 
Project Number: 
Project/Modality: 
Grant
Loan
Loan Number: 
2718
Source of Funding: 
Concessional OCR
Date Approved: 
10 Dec 2010
Report Rating: 
Successful

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