Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Government under spends on property maintenance

With almost three months into the 2009/10 financial year, less than 1 percent of the money allocated for maintenance of government property nationwide this financial year has been used.

That was as at Tuesday last week.
The total sum allocated is P11 227 300 but according to the Department of Building and Engineering Services, only P32 301 had been used as at June 23.
In the previous financial year, P1 085 619 of the maintenance money was not spent. The money comes from the recurrent budget.

According to DBES’s spokesperson, Morwalela Kesalopa, the unspent money is automatically returned to the government coffers and not carried over to the next financial year.
The total allocation for last year was P10 490 546.

For the past four years, the Ministry of Works and Transport has been issuing funds to selected ministries and departments to undertake minor maintenance. However, there was confusion as to the distinction between major and minor maintenance, which in one respect, led to funds not being fully utilised for the purposes they were intended.

A DBES document put together to shed light on this issue says that some ministries make use of the funds to undertake major development work, such as renovation of buildings.

“Whilst it is agreed that renovation may be interpreted by some as a maintenance activity, the department feels that the scope of the work may be too large to be handled by ministries and departments and, as such, it warrants escalating this operation to DBES for execution. Some ministries and departments though have not used the funds provided to them altogether on account of unclear guidelines and this has prompted the Department of Building and Engineering Services to revisit these guidelines with the view to further clarify them,” says the document, which is entitled “Guidelines for the Execution of Minor Maintenance Work Devolved to Ministries and Departments”.

Minor maintenance involves performing work of moderate difficulty, which does not require any high level of expertise. Unlike major maintenance, which requires expertise, such work does not have to be referred to DBES for assistance.

DBES has published a list that distinguishes major from minor maintenance. Repairing or replacing all or part of an existing structure to prevent premature failure on a flat-structure roof is considered major maintenance. On the other hand, repair and replacement of small components of the same structure (like rotten or defective timber) is minor maintenance.

It turns out that DBES has also been undertaking housekeeping and other activities, which ministries and departments can self-cater for through the services of curators, gardeners, cleaners and machine operators. Such activities include cutting down of trees within the premises of institutional houses and government offices; maintenance of garden sprinklers and associated pipe fittings; cleaning up of ceiling or removal of cob webs from ceiling in government offices; unblocking and removal of debris from storm water drainage systems; cleaning of swimming pools; cleaning of windows and polishing/cleaning of slate panels; cleaning or removal of burnt food from electric and gas stoves; unblocking of kitchen sinks, wash basins and bath tubs; cleaning or removal of stains from bath tubs; replacement of burnt socket outlets in Institutional houses; rewiring of vandalised electrical installations; and, replacement of damaged electrical fixtures, door locks and kitchen units.

According to the guidelines document, some ministries and government departments abandon property which gets vandalised and then call DBES to refurbish such property at its own expense. From now on, DBES says that ‘all abandoned facilities will be attended to by DBES at the expense of the client ministry/department as the costs of such rehabilitations are often high due to vandalism and protracted periods of neglect.’

Another innovation in the execution of maintenance work is the formation of Ministerial Technical Units (MTUs) which, as an extension of DBES, oversee development projects in ministries and provide backup in the execution of maintenance services. MTUs are staffed with professional staff and have been established in the following ministries and department: State President, Works and Transport, Agriculture, Sports and Recreation, Home Affairs, Health and Administration of Justice.

DBES is also piloting use of multi-skilled artisans who will be based at the Government Enclave in Gaborone. The role of these ‘rapid response teams’ as DBES calls them, is to act as a ‘first line of defence.’ Once it is established that these teams have a positive impact in reducing the response times to maintenance, the approach would be introduced in other areas. A harbinger team of these artisans currently operates from the Attorney General Chambers and serves the entire Enclave.


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