In 2013 PRIF released a research report called “Infrastructure Maintenance in the Pacific: Challenging the Build-Neglect-Rebuild Paradigm” – this highlighted the lack of planning for maintenance and backlog of work in many countries. A key issue in good maintenance is the appropriate allocation and execution of budgets.
The Study of Infrastructure Maintenance Budgets in the Cook Islands found that there are about ten different infrastructure service providers in the Cook Islands (covering power supply, ICT, water, solid waste, roads, maritime services and so on), and many pay a good deal of attention to maintenance, particularly those that are private companies or SOEs. However, there are some significant shortfalls and the report highlights these with a view to continuous improvement. At the moment there are no formal guidelines on how the budgets should be assigned, and it tends to be based on the appropriations for previous years. Another key issue is the process of reallocating budgets – Obviously being able to reallocate budgets part-way through a year supports flexibility in addressing the highest priorities, but it can mean that certain assets don’t get any maintenance year after year.
The Cook Islands Cabinet endorsed the outcomes of this study, and also further decided that items in capital works budgets and accounts needed review in line with the findings of the report, including the way asset registers are developed and updated. While this report is specifically about the Cook Islands, some of the issues are common to other countries as well. Many other countries face the same issues, so this study is considered as a pilot and may be developed further in the future.